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Archive | June, 2021

Time to celebrate!

Photo submitted on facebook by Rachael Austin.

This last year has been anything but normal, but with limits on outdoor capacity being lifted, many of this year’s seniors and their families got to experience a normal graduation this year—something unimaginable even a couple of months ago.

Over the last couple of weeks, hundreds of students stepped out into a brand new world as they graduated high school and now celebrate what lies ahead. Here in our area, students graduated from Cedar Springs High School, New Beginnings High School, Creative Technologies Academy, Algoma Christian School, and Tri County High School. Click here to download the area’s highest honors students highlighted in the paper, along with class photos for the various schools.

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Fire station to be dedicated Saturday

The new fire station will be dedicated Saturday. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Saturday will be a day to celebrate many good things here in Cedar Springs, and one of the most important is our local fire department and the dedication of the brand new $3.5 million fire station at at 38 N. Second St, between Elm and Cherry Streets.

There will be a mini parade down Main Street about 10:30 a.m. from the old fire station on W. Maple Street, to the new fire station. A ribbon cutting will take place about 10:45 a.m., followed by various festivities, including free hot dogs and chips, tours of the building, sidewalk chalk for the kids, and a spray house to let kids see if they can “put the fire out” by spraying water on wood that will flop down when they get it out.

At 10,000 square feet, and triple the size of the old station, the new fire station provides added space and equipment necessary to service a growing Cedar Springs population. 

The Cedar Springs Fire Department serves a 16 square mile area, including the City of Cedar Springs and parts of Nelson Township, and approximately 5,600 residents. The Cedar Springs Fire Department is a fully volunteer/paid on-call fire department providing fire suppression, emergency medical services, rescue and other services. The department is comprised of 20 firefighters and medical first responders.

Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser, who has been with the department for 42 years and Chief for the last nine, said they moved into the building five or six weeks ago. “We are tickled to be there,” he said. “It’s working out great.” He added that it’s amazing how much room there is. “But that’s also what they said 40 years ago about the other one,” he said with a chuckle. “The equipment just keeps getting bigger and there is more of it.” He noted that the building was built with the intent that it would last 50-60 years, with the possibility of expansion.

The first fire station in 1874. Photo courtesy of the Cedar Springs Historical Society

The Cedar Springs Fire Department was first formed in 1873 after a series of sizeable fires. With many lumber mills in the area, the danger of fire was constant threat. A new engine was bought in May of 1874, and in August 1874 there was a new fire station. 

With this move, they have come full circle. At one time, the fire department was located on the same property, at the northeast corner of Cherry and Second Streets, and shared space with the old Cedar Springs Library.

Other events going on Saturday include the dedication of the new amphitheater in the Heart of Cedar Springs at 2:45 p.m. with several musicians to follow. There will also be a library book sale, artists selling their art, and the annual En Gedi fundraising auction.

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Recall petition filed for Sand Lake trustee

By Judy Reed

Village of Sand Lake trustee Rachel Gokey may have to fight for her seat on the Village Council this fall. 

According to Kent County Deputy Clerk Robert Macomber, a petition was filed by Village resident Jack Christensen on May 24 to recall Gokey. A hearing to consider the petition language was held on Friday, June 3, and the clarity of the language was approved. The petition reads:

“Trustee Gokey refused to sign the social media policy that was passed by the Village Council on February 15, 2021 and is the only member of Council that has refused to sign and follow the policy; Trustee Gokey was censured by the Village Council on May 17, 2021.”

The Post contacted Christensen on the matter, but he didn’t have any comments he wished to make at this time regarding the recall.

Signatures for the petition will now need to be gathered from residents. The number of signatures required is 25 percent of the number of votes for Governor in the most recent election. Since 190 votes were cast in Sand Lake, 48 signatures will be needed. The last day the recall petition with sufficient valid signatures can be filed and still appear on the ballot for the November 2021 election is July 30, 2021, at 5 p.m. The petition itself is valid until November 30.

If the signatures are determined to be valid and the petition is approved, a special recall election will be scheduled on the next general election date where other candidates may challenge the incumbent for the seat.

The Post contacted Gokey to get her thoughts on the petition. “I’m planning to appeal the findings of the election commission,” she said. “However, I am fine to appear on the ballot again and talk with voters about the steps I have taken to hold the Council accountable.”

Without the recall, Gokey’s term is due to end in 2022. 

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Driver hits car and tractor

An impatient driver caused a three-vehicle crash involving a tractor last weekend. Photo courtesy of MSP.

Michigan State Police troopers from the Grand Rapids Post responded to a three-vehicle crash on the evening of Saturday, June 5, involving a farm tractor.  

The tractor was traveling eastbound on 17 Mile Rd, in Tyrone Township, with a line of vehicles behind it. A driver at the back of the line of traffic began to pass the vehicles, unaware that a vehicle behind the tractor was turning north (left) on to Tyrone Road. The passing vehicle struck the turning vehicle and then struck the tractor which went off the roadway. 

“Luckily no one was injured in the crash but it is a reminder to use caution and patience when driving on rural roads where farm implements are traveling between fields,” said the MSP in a tweet about the crash.

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Post travels to Valparaiso

TJ and Ken Norris, of Solon Township, traveled to Valparaiso, Indiana, over the Memorial Day weekend to check out Valparaiso University and the town as a possible “late-in-life” retirement community. Great university, vibrant downtown and near the bottom of Lake Michigan and Indiana Dunes. Also met up with Orville Redenbacher, of the popcorn brand fame, and he asked to read The Post. Orville and his business partner were both residents the town.

Thanks so much to Ken and TJ for sharing their trip with us, and for sharing the Post with Orville!

 Are you going on vacation? Be sure to take along a printed edition of the Post and get someone to snap a photo of you or your family with it. Send it to us along with some info about your trip (where you went, who went along, what you saw) and send the photo and info to news@cedarspringspost.com. We will print as space allows. If you forget the Post, please do not photoshop it into the photo. Just take it with you next time!

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Bird’s eye view

Don Snow, President of CS Tool Engineering, said he happened to be up on the roof of the building for something and took this photo of the construction project (the new Cedar Springs Drain) at the corner of 5th and Cherry to share with us. That’s quite a view! The photo was taken about May 17. This is phase one of the project, with phase two scheduled to start sometime after July 4th.

Thanks so much, Don, for sharing this photo with us!

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Man charged with rape and murder in 45-hour crime spree

The police manhunt ended late Monday/early Tuesday for a suspect wanted in the rape of two women and the killing of a teenage girl in Isabella County.          

The suspect, Isaiah Gary (Zeek) Gardenhire, 40, was arraigned on a dozen felony charges for what occurred during a 45-hour period, beginning Sunday, about 3:15 a.m., when Gardenhire sexually assaulted his girlfriend at a residence they shared on South Isabella County Road in Union Township.

“At some point during that altercation, Mr. Gardenhire’s attention turned to her daughter, who was in the home as well,” said Isabella County Prosecutor David Barberi, in a news conference Monday. “Mr.  Gardenhire went to retrieve her daughter. It’s our understanding that the mother escaped the home, went to make contact with police, and when police arrived, they found that the mother’s daughter had been stabbed.”

Officers initiated life-saving measures, but the girl died of her stab wounds. Gardenhire had already fled the scene.

According to Barberi, Gardenhire reportedly hid in an empty nearby apartment. Several hours later, he approached a couple he did not know. He hit the man and entered the apartment and held the man and woman hostage. Barberi said he repeatedly sexually assaulted the woman. He then stole money from the couple, along with their 2014 Ford Fusion, and drove to Flint Township. 

Late Monday, Gardenhire surrendered to Flint Township police officers, who turned him over to the Michigan State Police, who brought him back to Isabella County.

Gardenhire was arraigned Tuesday, June 8, in Isabella County on charges of open murder, armed robbery, carjacking, first-degree home invasion, first-degree criminal sexual conduct using a weapon, three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with multiple variables, and two counts each of unlawful imprisonment and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Bond was set at $3 million.

“This is certainly a horrific tragedy and a completely senseless loss of life,” Barberi said. “We know that these events caused the entire community to be on edge. We’re confident that any harm or fear that was caused by Mr. Gardenhire is now over, as he is in custody. Our focus now is on the healing of the victims involved in this case and providing any services we can and the opportunity to deliver justice for them and ensure the justice system will operate properly, as we know it will.”

MSP Mount Pleasant Post Commander Lt. Josh Lator expressed his gratitude to the community during the press conference for providing tips to police during manhunt.

“We cannot do our job without a community who works with us, and you have defined teamwork in the way you rose to this challenge, and I just want to thank you sincerely,” Lator said.

At the time of the rapes and murder, Gardenhire was free on bond after a May 27 arrest on a charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim 13 or younger. The date of the alleged crime is listed as May 1, 2015. His bond had been set at $7,500 surety or 10 percent.

Gardenhire has also served time in prison for home invasion and firearms possession. 

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Rep. Huizenga announces June office hours

State Rep. Mark Huizenga invites residents of northern Kent County to five office hour meetings during the month of June.

Huizenga will host office hours at the following times and locations:

Friday, June 11, 7:30-8:30 a.m., at Herman’s Boy, 220 Northland Drive NE in Rockford;

Saturday, June 12, 7:30-8:30 a.m., at Rainbow Grill, 4158 Chicago Drive SW in Grandville;

Friday, June 18, 7:30-8:30 a.m., at Big Boy, 13961 White Creek Ave. NE in Cedar Springs;

Saturday, June 26, 8-9 a.m., at Maxine’s Family Restaurant, 370 N. State St. in Sparta; and

Monday, June 28, 7:30-8:30 a.m., at New Beginnings, 4735 Lake Michigan Drive NW in Grand Rapids.

Office hours are open to the public, and no appointment is necessary to attend. Huizenga will be available to discuss his legislative work and listen to people share their feedback.  Residents can also contact Huizenga’s office by phone at 517-373-8900 or by email at MarkHuizenga@house.mi.gov.

Huizenga represents the 74th House district, which includes the cities of Cedar Springs, Grandville, Rockford and Walker and the townships of Algoma, Alpine, Solon, Sparta and Tyrone.

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FBI seeks info in 25-year-old murders

Shenandoah National Park murders 25 years later

Twenty-five years ago, two young female hikers decided to do what many people do for exercise, relaxation and sport—hike through the Shenandoah National Park; however their journey ended when they were murdered at their backcountry campsite near Skyland Resort in Virginia.

The bodies of 24-year-old Julianne “Julie” Williams and 26-year-old, Laura “Lollie” Winans were found by Park Rangers on June 1, 1996, after Lollie’s dog, Taj, was located wandering the paths and turned over to Rangers.

The initial investigative, media, and community response to these murders was enormous, and generated leads that would have investigators interview individuals all across the country. To this day, this investigation continues to grip the consciousness of Julie and Lollie’s family and friends and those who have worked diligently to identify and bring to justice the person(s) responsible for this senseless crime.

Five years ago, FBI Richmond distributed a press release imploring the public for assistance in sharing an FBI Seeking Information poster. We are again asking for the public’s assistance.

The beauty of Virginia’s Parks and Trails are enticing to people, not just from Virginia, but other states; and during these outdoor adventures people come across other hikers and visitors—some who make a memorable impression. Over the past twenty-five years we are cognizant that those who were hiking in the Park at the time of the murders, were visiting local establishments and even resided in the area may not be local to Virginia any longer; therefore it is crucial that this case continues to be shared throughout the country. It is possible there are people anywhere from Virginia to the west coast that could have information valuable to investigators.

The FBI has updated the Seeking Information posters with additional photos of Julie and Lollie. The investigation into their murder continues to be a joint effort by the FBI Richmond Field Office, the National Park Service and the Virginia State Police. No bit of information is insignificant, and your tip could be the piece of evidence that brings closure to this 25-year old case. Anyone with information can contact FBI Detroit at 313-965-2323, FBI Richmond at 804-261-1044, or submit tips online at tips.fbi.gov.

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Benson announces changes to increase SOS appointments

Changes suggested by staff add 350,000 appointments

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced her offices are adding appointments to serve 350,000 more Michiganders, greeters at office doors to assist in scheduling visits, and priority service for residents needing a disability placard.

“We were able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who, concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert back to a broken “take a number and wait” system, suggested ways they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions efficiently and quickly,” said Benson. “It’s an extraordinary testament not just to their dedication to the department but their recognition that having residents schedule their visits ahead of time is a vastly superior way of doing business.”

The three changes Benson announced were:

By shaving minutes off transaction times to maximize efficiency, the department is increasing appointments by 25 percent between now and the end of the fiscal year. It released half of the more than 350,000 new appointments Monday, and the remaining half will be split up and released every weekday at 8 a.m. and noon between now and Sept. 30 as next-day appointments. Appointments can be booked online at gov/SOS or, for people with internet limitations, by calling 888-SOS-MICH.

Additionally, residents will be able to book appointments in person thanks to a pilot program that will place greeters at the doors of many of the department’s busiest offices this month. When visitors arrive without an appointment, greeters will tell them if any staff are available to serve them or assist them in scheduling a return visit. The same service will be available at offices without dedicated greeters when counter staff is able to approach the door between appointments.

Residents needing disability placards can now be served as soon as possible after arrival at any office. While these residents are still encouraged to schedule their visit, appointments are no longer required to receive a disability placard.

Benson noted that the department suffered during decades of disinvestment and neglect by the state Legislature and previous secretaries of state, who cut staff by 40 percent and closed 46 percent of offices while the state population grew 10 percent and the number of vehicles increased 25 percent. The Legislature made matters worse during the pandemic by ignoring the department’s request that expiration extensions be granted on a rolling basis and instead extending every license and vehicle plate in the state to expire on March 31, placing 13 months of pent-up demand on the system all at once.

Benson said the Legislature could cut through this transaction backlog quickly by passing bills that would provide $25 million in COVID-19 relief funding for additional department staff and overtime. But she said in the absence of legislative support, she would continue making improvements, and to stay tuned for additional announcements.

“I am truly grateful to the hard-working men and women who have given years, if not decades, of their lives to public service here at the Department of State,” said Benson. “Whether the legislative leaders are with us or not, the people of this department will not give up on our mission of continuing to find new ways to provide convenient and efficient service to all Michiganders. And neither will I.”

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