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Tag Archive | "nelson township"

Four-car crash injures two

File photo.

One person was critically injured and another suffered minor injuries after a driver ran a stop sign at Myers Lake Avenue and 17 Mile Road Wednesday morning.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, the four-vehicle crash occurred Wednesday, August 4, at 6:13 a.m.  Their investigation showed that a Chrysler van was northbound on Myers Lake Ave N.E. when it failed to stop at the stop sign at 17 Mile Rd, and struck a Dodge Avenger attempting to turn southbound on Myers Lake Ave N.E. from westbound 17 Mile Rd N.E. The Chrysler van also struck a Buick passenger car that was westbound on 17 Mile Rd N.E. A southbound Ford pickup truck that was stopped at the stop sign at the intersection was also struck.

The driver of the Chrysler van, a 56-year-old female from Rockford, was transported to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the Buick passenger car, a 27-year-old male from Sidney, was transported to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital in critical condition. The drivers of the Dodge Avenger and Ford pickup truck were not injured.

Courtland Fire Department and Rockford Ambulance assisted at the scene. The crash remains under investigation.

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Nelson Twp. residents to vote on two proposals

By Judy Reed

Residents in Nelson Township will have two proposals to vote on in the August 3 primary.

The first concerns an increase in the millage for Nelson Township to help support the maintenance of the Library, and the second is whether to allow two marijuana processors and growers in the township.

The first proposal would increase the taxes by .6179 per $1,000 of taxable value and bring in $88,427 in the first calendar year. 

According to Nelson Township Supervisor Robyn Britton, they are between a rock and a hard place. The beautiful building that was built and dedicated 15 years ago is in need of repair, and they don’t have the funds to do it. The main things needing to be either repaired or replaced is the roof and the boiler.

The roof is a standing seam roof, and over 15 years, ice has built up and damaged it. “The eaves need to be repaired,” explained Britton. 

The roof has leaked several times, including above the boiler. And that’s just one of the problems the boiler has. “Back when the library was built, the boiler was supposed to be one of the best, but it’s failing miserably,” said Britton. “We have spent thousands trying to repair it. It literally breaks every other week.” She said they started having problems with it about four years ago, and it’s at the point where it needs to be replaced.

Britton said they may replace it with a different type of heating system. “We are looking at all the options,” she said.

She explained that it is true that residents pay two types of library tax: the Nelson Township tax, and the KDL tax. Of the Nelson Township library tax, $50,000 goes directly to the upkeep of the library. The KDL tax they pay goes directly to KDL. They then give Nelson $11,000 of it. KDL pays for staff, books, etc. Nelson Township residents pay for the building and other supplies, insurance, maintenance, snow removal, lawn care, utilities, water/sewer, etc.

“The people built this beautiful library, and it needs to be taken care of,” said Britton.  

If it passes, it would go through the year 2024.

For more info on the library proposal, see Post Script letters on pages 5 and 11.

The second question is a proposal put on the ballot by resident Jason Fisher, of J&R Auto Recyclers, on Northland Drive. Nelson Township had opted out of having marijuana businesses in the township. Fisher, who wants to become a marihuana grower and processor, filed a petition to get it on the ballot to let the residents decide whether the Township should adopt an ordinance to permit two marihuana growers and two marijuana processors within the township?

If it passes, Fisher, or anyone else who wanted one of the two licenses, must meet all the legal requirements (including licenses, fees, etc.), both for the state and the township, before they could grow and/or process their crop. 

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Historical farm honored with new sign

By Judy Reed

Now days it’s not easy to find a piece of land that has been in the same family for 50 years—let alone 100. Or in the case of one Nelson Township family, over 150 years.

That’s right—the farm at 13383 Shaner Avenue has been in the Hale family almost 155 years, giving it the designation of a sesquicentennial farm. The family was honored with a new centennial sign acknowledging the farm’s status earlier this spring.

The original homestead.

According to the family and historical records, the original 40 acres were bought by Henry Walter Hale, age 30, of New York, in 1865 in Nelson Township from Robert Sinclair. Hale had just finished serving several months in the Civil War. He moved here with his wife, Mary, and two children, Harriet and Frederick. He died in 1924 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

According to Lorie Ostrom, a descendant who currently lives on the original farm, Fred and Hattie were each given 20 acres. Hattie lived in a little house on the corner of 16 Mile and Shaner for many years.  Meanwhile, Fred married Freelove Townes and had three children – Grace, Charlie and Glenn.  Glenn was born in 1896, and married Margaret Wassenaar (1908-2001), and had one son, Robert (Bob) Hale. Bob and his wife, Beverly live just up the road from the original homestead.

Bob and Bev Hale. Bob is the great-grandson of Henry Walter Hale, the original owner of the farm.

Bob has many memories of the farm, and it was noted in the records they submitted to the state. He noted that according to records, his great-grandfather, Henry Walter Hale, cleared the land and started farming it. “During that time, buildings were constructed by the community. Also, my grandmother’s family lived across the road,” he said.

He also spoke about his growing up years. “We owned 80 acres across from the 40-acre homestead, which had a large barn and housed our dairy operation. The original 40 acres was comprised of the old farmhouse, 110-year-old barn, corn crib, granary, three hen houses, and a Michigan cellar. Chickens were raised and eggs sold locally to businesses and families,” Bob recalled.

Bob’s father Glenn passed away in 1968. In 1969, he and his mother decided they would build a new home on the other side of the road, since the old homestead had no insulation and was heated with wood and fuel oil, and had no basement. But before they could complete the move, a tornado struck the new house, damaging it along with cars and a 40-foot by 60-foot barn, making them unrepairable. Instead, he had to rebuild. Buildings on the original homestead received structural damage also. 

In 2002, they decided to clean up the original homestead property. “Trees were removed, structures burned, and a new house was built on the site,” explained Bob. He added that the old barn needed a lot of work but was repaired.

He said that his mother, Margaret, was a 4H-leader for over 35 years, and he was involved with the 4H program for 10 years, and he and his wife were involved when their grandchildren had projects. He said Margaret was also involved in the Cedar Springs Women’s Club.

Sharon Jett, of the Cedar Springs Historical Museum, remembers Bob’s mother, Margaret, telling her the story of how she came to Cedar Springs. 

“Margaret told me she was living in Bitely as a young woman and got hired as a teacher here in Cedar Springs.

Her father took her through the woods to the railroad tracks, gave her a light and told her to flag down the train when she saw it coming. It was night and he left her there alone.

“She was very frightened, at that time there were wolves and bears in the area, and she did what her father told her to do. She was so afraid the train wouldn’t stop and she didn’t know if she could find her way home. The train did stop to pick her up and her life in Cedar Springs began. I’ll never forget her telling me that story,” recalled Jett.

Andrew the dog, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Lori Ostrom added a few things that Grandpa Bob has told her. For instance, Grandma Margaret Hale was known as the egg lady of Cedar springs back in the 1950’s.  And, there was also a dog named Andrew, who met an untimely end. “He was really Glenn Hale’s dog but Grandpa Hale adopted it until it was randomly shot in a drive by shooting. Yes, even back in the 1950’s there were mean people,” she remarked.

“Grandpa tells another story about another family dog that bit him in the britches – and he had to have stitches!” she said.  

Lori went on to explain how the original tradition of farming is carried down to today. “Henry Walter Hale is the one who cleared all the land for farming; they farmed corn, wheat, oats, spelt, hay, 17 cattle and many horses; about the 1940’s when they got a tractor, they no longer had horses. Today the family tradition is to do a large family garden that we plant Memorial Day Weekend and share the bounty.

The original barn and outbuildings.
The barn today.

“Some of the photos show the barn in the background and this is the barn that is still standing on our property today.

“The original homestead house, and additions are also pictured – but this, and many of the outbuildings were burned down by the volunteer fire fighters in a controlled burn. We are so thankful they were willing to work hard to save the old barn!” she remarked.

“Every Memorial Day weekend we go to Elmwood Cemetery in Cedar Springs and plant flowers on all the family grave markers.  It is a tradition, and now that we are older, we often bombard Grandpa Hale to tell us more stories about the old days and family connections,” said Lori.

Lori’s brother, Fred Myers, now lives in the house across the street from the old homestead. He is the family tree expert and has found many of the records dating back to the original purchase of the property. 

The Post thanks Fred, Lori, and Bob for all records and photos they passed along. Congratulations on being designated a sesquicentennial farm!

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Family loses 50 animals in fire

This barn with a stray cat sanctuary burned on Monday, November 28, killing all the animals inside.

By Judy Reed

When Jody Willer did her final check of the night on the 15 cats and dozens of chickens, ducks and other fowl in their pole barn, she had no inkling that anything was wrong. But her whole world blew up just two hours later.

Willer and her young adult daughter, Kristeena, live with Willer’s brother, Bob Versluys, in Nelson Township on 20 Mile Rd. Willer, who is disabled, moved in there with her daughter after a divorce, and her life has revolved around taking in and caring for stray cats, as well as caring for the various chickens, ducks and geese. She had a “cat condo” in the barn, with a “cat camp” in a fenced in area in the yard behind it for the cats to play in. The birds had their own part of the barn, and were able to roam freely during the day.

“I went out to the barn about 7 or 8 and made a fire that night (in the wood stove) because I knew it was going to be cold,” she said. “At about 11 I went back to restock it for the night, and everything was ordinary. I never would’ve given it a second thought.”

Willer said she normally goes to bed about 11 but stayed up until about 1 watching TV. When going to bed, she noticed through the window that the mercury light at the barn was out. She told her daughter she was going out to check the breaker. 

When she got to the barn, she opened the first door with her key. When she went to open the inner door, she realized the handle was hot. When she opened the door, thick black smoke blew her back and the flames ignited. Willer said she screamed for her daughter, who came out and tried to break open a back window to get to the animals but couldn’t. Her brother, who happens to be the Fire Chief at Grand Rapids Township, was on the job in Grand Rapids and not home at the time.

According to Sand Lake Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander, the call came in around 1 a.m., and both Sand Lake and Cedar Springs responded to the scene. “We were there about an hour and a half,” said Hawkins. “There was tar paper in the roof, and we had to pull all that down.” 

All the animals perished from smoke inhalation. “We got all the animals out and buried them,” said Willer. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through. We loved our animals and treated them like grandkids. That’s 49 lives, so sad and traumatizing.”

The three oldest cats were 17 years old. “I got them from Cedar Animal Hospital,” she said. The oldest chicken was also 17 years old, she said. “They usually only live about 11 years,” she added.

For now, she’s at a loss with what to do with herself. “Taking care of animals gave me a purpose,” she said. “Thank goodness we kept some in the house, too,” she said, referring to the several cats that live in the house, including a two-month-old stray someone dropped off.

While the fire department felt it may have been a spark from the wood stove that started the blaze, Willer said that an insurance inspector called and said that he cannot rule out whether it was electrical or a spark from the stove, so he will be back out to continue to investigate it. 

Regardless, she said that when they rebuild, they would not have a wood stove in it, and plan to make it mostly concrete to allow any fire to burn itself out more quickly.

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Four townships partner on 16 Mile Road construction

16 Mile Road, west of Keller Avenue: Two miles of newly constructed road, from Pine Lake Avenue to Keller Avenue. The third mile, between Keller Avenue and Harvard Avenue, will be complete in October 2018.

Where four townships meet: 16 Mile Road and Keller Avenue. Pictured (left to right) Patrick Malone, Commissioner, KCRC; John Wood, Trustee, Spencer; Sharon Fase, Trustee, Spencer; Lisa Wright, Clerk, Spencer; Catherine Knapp, Deputy Treasurer, Spencer; Jeff Knapp, Supervisor, Spencer; Mike Krygier, Supervisor, Courtland; Tom Hoskins, Resident, Courtland; Laura Hoffman, Clerk, Nelson; Maureen Mahoney, Trustee, Nelson; Robyn Britton, Supervisor, Nelson; Jerry Byrne, Deputy Managing Director, KCRC.

By Maura Lamoreaux, Kent County Road Commission

The Kent County Road Commission’s multi-year, three-mile-long, gravel-to-pavement construction project on 16 Mile Road, from Pine Lake Avenue to Harvard Avenue, readies for completion this summer. This is largely due to the collaborative effort among the townships of Courtland, Oakfield, Nelson and Spencer. The funding needed to transform the three miles of gravel road to pavement required a united effort from these neighboring communities because, as a borderline road, 16 Mile Road falls within each of the townships, which sit to its north and south.  

Generally, the financing of a borderline road improvement project can be tricky to secure because of the road’s physical divide among townships. Agreements made by townships prior to January 1931 sought to alleviate this type of confusion by assigning construction—and therefore, financial—responsibilities to one of the adjoining townships. As per the agreement, the identified township would be responsible for 100 percent of the local share of a borderline road project despite two townships sharing the border.

Assuming full responsibility for the local share of a road project, for which only half of the road resides in the township’s own jurisdiction, can be a tough sell. Given budgetary constraints, why finance a borderline road project when another improvement project resides fully within the township’s limits? Conversely, why would a township that is not assigned construction responsibility feel compelled to support a borderline road project financially?

In the case of 16 Mile Road, the road’s high-volume use helped to sway the four townships to partner in financing the three miles of work, despite the recorded assignment of construction responsibility. Ultimately, each township decided that the project was in their residents’ best interest because it provided a new, and in-demand, pavement-to-pavement connection.

“The traffic counts helped demonstrate how important 16 Mile was to the residents who live in this area. Once the project was considered a win for everyone, it became a matter of the townships discussing how to collaborate financially in order to complete construction,” said Jerry Byrne, KCRC’s Deputy Managing Director of Operations.

The funding of local road projects like 16 Mile Road is cost shared between the township and KCRC. For gravel-to-pavement construction, this equates to 45 percent of the funding coming from the road commission, 55 percent from the township. 

Although construction started on the first mile of the 16 Mile Road project in 2015, the conversation about the project began between KCRC and township officials in 2011. After these initial discussions, representatives from KCRC hosted multiple informational meetings for township residents, during which questions could be raised and issues discussed.

“That first meeting, we packed the house, and it was in January with really bad weather! So that was a good sign,” said Courtland Township resident Tom Hoskins, who lives on 16 Mile Road. 

Public Hearings held by KCRC’s Board then followed, preceding each mile of construction. Year after year, an overwhelming number of residents demonstrated their support by attending the hearings or writing to the Board in advance of the vote, to urge the commissioners’ approval.

“One of our township officials joked that the road commission’s parking lot was so full for the meeting, he couldn’t find a space,” said Hoskins.

In 2015, the first mile of the project began between Pine Lake Avenue and Tisdel Avenue, and the second mile, between Tisdel Avenue and Keller Avenue, followed in 2016. The local share of the two-mile stretch was funded by its bordering townships, Courtland and Nelson. In 2018, construction began on the final mile of the project, between Keller Avenue and Harvard Avenue, with the local share funded by the bordering townships of Oakfield and Spencer.

“We are happy to see the entire stretch completed and thank everyone for the cooperation,” said Greg Dean, Oakfield Township Supervisor.

“As we enter the third and final phase of this joint project, I have enjoyed the cooperative spirit of Nelson, Courtland and Oakfield Townships in making this project reality. A special thank you to the road commission for keeping us well informed and to the residents for their patience in enduring the construction activity,” said Jeff Knapp, Spencer Township Supervisor.
Resident support remains high, exemplified by the community-wide street parties thrown after each mile is completed. 

 “We’re very happy,” said Hoskins. “Some people have even purchased new cars!”

“This project has become a labor of love for each of the communities, and it exemplifies what can be accomplished when the road commission and townships partner and collaborate for the benefit of the residents we serve,” said Steve Warren, KCRC’s Managing Director. 

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Supervisors run close race

By Judy Reed

One local township voted to retain their Supervisor in Tuesday’s August primary, while another township voted a new leader to take the helm. 

In Nelson Township, current Supervisor Robyn Britton won with 449 votes to Tom Norton’s 343. There are 3,487 registered voters in Nelson Township, and 1,136 ballots were cast, for a turn out of 32 percent. Both Britton and Norton were registered as Republicans, which meant most all of the parties (except for 53 Democratic write ins) had to vote Republican since you couldn’t split your ticket. Some were happy to do it if it meant voting for the candidate they thought should win the Supervisor race, while others weren’t happy about it.

In an even closer race in Courtland Township, trustee Matt McConnon won the Supervisor job by just 36 votes. He took 457; current Supervisor Mike Krygier had 421; and challenger Eric Smith had 209. They also all ran on the Republican ticket, so voters in Courtland also had to vote Republican to vote for their Supervisor candidate. There are 6,358 registered voters in Courtland Township, and 2,118 cast ballots, for a turn out of 33 percent.

Fire protection millage renewals in both townships passed.

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Charges denied in Sand Lake threats case

By Judy Reed

The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office has denied charges in the case of Nelson Township resident Scott Britton confronting Tom Norton, the President of the Village of Sand Lake. 

Britton is the husband of Robyn Britton, the Supervisor of Nelson Township. Both Robyn and Norton are running for the Nelson Supervisor seat in next Tuesday’s election, and tensions are running high in the community. 

The confrontation occurred the evening of Wednesday, July 18, after Scott Britton was made aware that someone had put used toilet paper on his wife’s office door. Nelson Township and the Village of Sand Lake share offices in a municipal building there.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 100 block of W. Lake Street sometime after 8:15 p.m. on the night of July 18, on the report of threats/assault.

Norton said he had just gotten back from Indiana that day and was at a resident’s home, speaking with him outside about an upcoming tree removal, when a vehicle pulled up and a man got out and yelled, “Are you Thomas Norton?”

“I said yes and he then violently moved towards my direction and stated, ‘I’m Scott Britton and I’m going to %$#@ kill you,” Norton later wrote in an application for a personal protection order. “He then raised his hand and pointed it toward me. I was 98 percent certain he was going to do something. He then screamed, ‘Did you S#$% paper my wife’s door Tuesday night?”

Norton said he told him no, that he was in Indiana. He said that Britton told him he didn’t believe him, that he was a liar, and stated again he was going to kill him. Norton then began to record the conversation as Britton moved away, and told him again that he was in Indiana and could prove it. Britton then yelled that Norton would need a restraining order when he proved he did it. He then left.

Norton pressed charges against Britton, saying he had concerns for the safety of his family.

Norton gave the Post a copy of a receipt showing he was in Indiana when he said he was, but Robyn Britton said she actually discovered the used toilet paper on her door the morning of July 12, not the day before the confrontation. She said her husband didn’t know when it occurred, because she didn’t tell him about it. Instead, she said someone in the office mentioned it to him on July 17, thinking he knew. Then her husband saw Norton outside on the night of July 18 and confronted him.

Robyn didn’t report the occurrence initially. She said the only people that could have done it would have needed a key—and that would mean they would have been a member of the staff of either Sand Lake or Nelson Township, the police department, or the fire department. “I was just hoping to get through all of this to the election. The date couldn’t come soon enough for me,” she said.

But after the confrontation occurred between her husband and Norton, she told one of the detectives at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office about all that had been occurring recently: the unproven accusation of her interfering in Sand Lake’s search of a Village clerk; the cease and desist letters sent by Norton’s attorney to four women, including herself, demanding that they retract statements made about him; the toilet paper on her door, etc. “I wanted them to understand why Scott had gotten so mad and I wanted it on file in case anything else happened,” she said. She also said that she couldn’t prove who put the toilet paper on her door.

Norton said he would also like to find out who did it, and would be willing to take a lie detector test to prove he didn’t do it.

On Tuesday, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker told the Post that charges in the incident between Scott Britton and Tom Norton had been denied. “From our review of the report there were no punches thrown, no physical contact, the most physical action described in the report was a ‘hand out in a pointing fashion.’ Words were exchanged, but there is not enough here to file any sort of assault charges under these circumstances,” he said.

Norton was notified by the detective on the case. “I can understand not pressing charges because they think he’ll calm down after the election, but I’m still concerned about my family,” he said. “There was enough in the report for me to get the PPO.”

He also will be glad to see the end of the election. His supporters have told him of other people demanding that they take his signs down out of their yards. “We have lost 36 signs in the last 24 hours,” he said.

Robyn Britton said she hasn’t had anything to do with that. “No one in my family has touched a Tom Norton sign. I feel bad for him about that. I know how expensive they are and wouldn’t want someone touching mine,” she said.

See results of next Tuesday’s election in next week’s Post.

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Sand Lake passes “no obstruction” ordinance

Tensions run high on board; trustee resigns

By Judy Reed

Tempers were high and accusations made of improper conduct at the July 16 board meeting of the Village of Sand Lake. The possibilities of violations of the Open Meetings Act and infringement on first amendment rights were also at issue.

And in the wake of everything that went on, one board member, Jan Dewey, turned in her resignation. (See her resignation letter here)

Tensions have been running high for sometime, and have come to a head since the board sent a cease and desist letter to a Nelson Township employee, accusing her of interfering with governmental operations of the Village of Sand Lake. She had been accused of talking to those interviewed for Sand Lake’s clerk position and telling them not to take the job. (She denies that allegation.) The board had taken their lawyer’s advice to send the cease and desist, and voted to have an investigation done. However, at the June 25 meeting, Jan Dewey, of the personnel committee, reported that their lawyer said their case was too weak and there was nothing to investigate. The board decided to go ahead with an ordinance against interference and voted to approve the new language of the ordinance Monday evening, and said it would apply to any intentional interference moving forward. 

Dave Dewey said that there were times when he was president that this ordinance would have been helpful.

Mrs. Dewey told the Post that the personnel committee did not do any type of investigation into the claim against the Nelson Township employee, so did not speak with the clerk candidates to find out if there had been interference.

The Post sent a FOIA request to get the names of those interviewed for the clerk position and was successful in interviewing one of the candidates, who asked not to be named. “I was offered the job and declined it. I made this decision following a phone call with Mr. Norton (the Village President), after which I felt that I would not be able to productively work with Mr. Norton. My decision was entirely based on my phone call with Mr. Norton. I never spoke to, met with, or had any contact with anyone from the Township or their government. In particular, any claims that [the unnamed employee] influenced my decision are completely false. I have never had any contact in any way with [unnamed employee]. I declined the position based on my phone call with Mr. Norton and upon the advice of legal counsel.”

Norton was the target of many of the accusations Monday evening. At one point, Council member Danielle Hardenberg tried to bring up a letter she had received from Norton’s lawyer regarding a statement she made in the previous meeting that “women are afraid of Tom.” Before Hardenburg could say anything about it, Norton quashed it by telling her it was civil and she couldn’t talk about it. She tried to say she had been asked to speak about it in a public meeting but he did not let her speak. 

The letter demanded that she recant her statement in the same way she gave it, which would be a public meeting. Him not letting her speak could be seen as infringement on her first amendment rights. 

During council comments, Gary Wheeler read a litany of complaints, mostly aimed at Norton.

Hardenburg asked how many council members it took to make a quorum. She explained that she met with Dave and Jan Dewey about a problem she had with Norton, and the Deweys contacted the village lawyer, Jeff Sluggett, who gave them options on what Hardenburg could do. Hardenburg decided to have a face to face meeting, so all four met to discuss the problem, which would constitute a quorum. She felt that the business should be brought before the council. Norton said no, because they weren’t conducting business of the Village. She asked to take it into closed session, but he said no, it wasn’t on the agenda. And that they could do it at the next meeting, either in closed or open session, he didn’t care, because he had screen shots of their conversations.

Hardenburg told the Post she felt that it was Village business, because it involved the Village President and affected the way she did her job. 

If it was a quorum, and considered Village business, that meeting would be a violation of the Open Meetings act.

Norton showed the Post the screenshots. He did admit she had been sent something inappropriate by him but that it was accidental and he told her not to open it. She responded, “lol, ok.”

Hardenburg told the Post she responded that way because she didn’t know what to think.

Norton feels he is the target of accusations because he is running for Nelson Township Supervisor. He has sent at least three cease and desist letters to those he says have said untrue things about him.

Trustee Tonia Parkhurst also read a statement during council comments. She said she was taken aback by the negativity she felt at last month’s special meeting and was tired of the undercurrents. She had been excused from the meeting of June 25, but during the deliberations on the government obstruction ordinance, Norton texted her to verify if she was coming. When Parkhurst showed up, Wheeler told Tom he saw him pick up his phone earlier and asked him if he texted her. He said he had. Discussions then ensued on whether that was ethical, to which Norton replied, “Is it ethical to work with the township in order to sit there and stop ordinances and undermine operations of the village?”

Use of a phone when others do not know what you are doing, could be considered a violation. According to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s handbook on the Open Meetings Act, it says on page 9: 

“Use of electronic devices: Moreover, the use of electronic communications for discussions or deliberations, which are not, at a minimum, able to be heard by the public in attendance at an open meeting are contrary to the OMA’s core purpose–the promotion of openness in government.”

Dave Dewey told the council that he and his wife work hard to do the right thing. “To use the council as a platform for personal grievances you all are going to burn the church down. You need to have personal stuff remain outside of the council.”  


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More winter fun


Ashlee Shain, age 2, and Kaylie Shain, age 5, the daughters of Ed and Jenny Shain, of Nelson Township, are shown here having fun playing outside in early January. What a difference in the weather in just a few weeks!

If you have winter fun or wildlife photos you’d like to send, please email them to news@cedarspringspost.com with some info. We will print as space allows. Publication is not guaranteed.

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Two plead guilty in heroin overdose death

Jordan-Luke Vandenbosch

Jordan-Luke Vandenbosch

Bonnie Lee Price

Bonnie Lee Price

A Nelson Township man died last May of a heroin overdose, and the two people involved in his death pled guilty this week as part of a plea deal.

Bonnie Lee Price, 43, and Jordan-Luke Ibrihim Vandenbosch, 30, faced charges in the death of Price’s husband, Joshua Price 43. The incident occurred in May 2016, in the 6900 block of 17 Mile Road, west of Myers Lake Ave. Bonnie Price reportedly bought $60 worth of heroin in Grand Rapids, which she gave to Vandenbosch. He then mixed it and put it into syringes, and injected both the woman and her husband, and himself. When Joshua Price began to show signs of an overdose and difficulty breathing, the pair did not call 911 right away. Instead they tried to find narcan, which can reverse an overdose, from people they know. Bonnie Price reportedly also shot video of her husband, showing him in a distressed breathing state. She finally called 911 when he stopped breathing.

The pair tried to get rid of the drug paraphernalia, and later tried to get rid of Joshua’s phone and text messages about drugs by throwing it away at the Meijer on Alpine.

Price pled guilty this week to delivery/manufacture of heroin less than 50 grams, and tampering with evidence. In exchange, the prosecutor did not charge her with delivery of a controlled substance causing death. The agreement calls for a minimum term of just over three years in prison.

Vandenbosch pled guilty to the delivery of a controlled substance causing death, a possible life offense. The prosecution then dropped two other charges, and recommended a minimum term of seven years in prison.

The pair will be sentenced on March 9.

If someone you know appears to be suffering a heroin overdose, the best thing is to call 911 immediately. All Sheriff Deputies are trained in how to administer Narcan.

Heroin overdose affects a number of different body parts and systems.  Some of these effects are more obvious than others. Warning signs include:

• Bluish nails or lips.

• Depressed breathing.

• Weak pulse.

• Pinpoint pupils.

• Disorientation or delirium.

• Extreme drowsiness.

• Repeated episodes of loss of consciousness.

• Coma.

• Dry mouth.

• Constipation or spasms of the stomach or intestines.

• Low blood pressure.

To get help with addiction, visit https://network180.org/en/substance-use-disorders/programs/treatment-services or give them a call at 616.336.3909.

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Fire destroys family’s home

Firefighters work to put out the fire and any hot spots. Post photo by L. Allen.

Firefighters work to put out the fire and any hot spots. Post photo by L. Allen.

By Judy Reed

A Nelson Township family lost their home earlier this week after a fire broke out when no one was home.

This home in Nelson Township was deemed a total loss after Monday’s fire. Photo byTami Cain.

This home in Nelson Township was deemed a total loss after Monday’s fire. Photo byTami Cain.

According to Sand Lake Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander, the call came in at 10:49 a.m. Monday, December 5, that flames were through the roof at 9023 21 Mile Road.

Sand Lake, Cedar Springs, and Spencer Township Fire Departments all responded to the scene.

Holtzlander said that when firefighters arrived on scene, part of the roof was already caved in on the cinder block home.

He said that the fire most likely started in the attic above the kitchen/living room area, though it wasn’t determined how it started. “Their insurance company is investigating the cause,” explained Holtzlander.

He said that the home was a total loss.

Sand Lake Fire was called back to the house about 5 p.m. that day after the fire rekindled. “It was a problem with the insulation and how the roof line was built,” he explained.

Post photo by L. Allen.

Post photo by L. Allen.

No one was injured during the fire.

A gofundme page has been set up to help the Roebuck family (Billie, Laurie, and Isaac), who lived in the home, to meet immediate needs while their insurance is being sorted out and they figure out if anything is salvagable. You can visit the page at https://www.gofundme.com/fire-relief-fund-for-roebuck-family.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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