Community Invited to Learn About Local Barriers to Employment
Join a community discussion on January 24 to learn more about what keeps people out of the workforce and how our community can help. The Circles Newaygo County Big View meeting will feature an overview of the top employment barriers in our area and an update on key legislation from several state and federal lawmakers.
Talent 2025—an organization working to ensure an ongoing supply of world-class talent for West Michigan—will share its research on local barriers to employment, including education and skills, childcare, transportation, and substance use.
Also attending will be Michigan State Senator Jon Bumstead, State Representative Scott VanSingel, Peter Dickow representing U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Mary Judnich representing U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Matt Kooiman representing Congressman Bill Huizenga. They will discuss key legislation and policies in place to move more Michigan residents into the workforce. The evening will include opportunities for conversation with legislators.
The Circles Big View meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. at United Church of Christ in Newaygo (432 Quarterline Street) on January 24. A community meal will be served at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 6:40 p.m.
To RSVP for dinner, contact Lindsey Slater at Fremont Area Community Foundation at 231.924.5350 or firstname.lastname@example.org by January 22.
On Monday, January 14 at 7pm the Newaygo City Council will be reviewing a request for special use for two addiction recovery wellness homes in downtown Newaygo during their regular meeting at City Hall.
There was a full house at city hall last week Tuesday when the Planning Commission reviewed the request at a public hearing and received a great deal of public comment on the matter including those who delivered supportive statements as well as some who shared concerns about the houses being located downtown. Mike Helmer of Randy’s House, the program requesting the action, addressed questions during the meeting.
The week before, an informational meeting was held at Loomis Lodge where Helmer and other staff of Randy’s House delivered a presentation on the program, currently operating 4 such homes in Greenville.
The Planning Commission voted to pass the matter on to the Council with some amendments including limiting the number of vehicles allowed at the locations and compliance with the building code’s rule regarding square footage.
The planned residences are located at 48 Justice and 68 Quarterline.
January 9th Newaygo County Board of Commissioners Meeting
By Charles Chandler
On Wednesday, January 9th Mr. Brian Kolk the new Chairperson gaveled in the first Board of Commissioners’ meeting of 2019. The roll call introduced four new Commissioners. They included Mr. Burt Cooper representing District 1, Mr. Ken DeLaat representing District 5, Ms. Brenda Bird representing District 6 and Mr. Mike Kruithoff representing District 7. The meeting agendas were approved and Chair Kolk proceeded in an orderly manner with the new commissioners voting on motions, resolutions and presenting comments and committee reports. For the first meeting with a new Chair and four new Commissioners the County business was taken care of in an effective and efficient manner.
Regarding the Changing of the Guard, several new or recently promoted County Employees were introduced to the Board. County Treasurer Ms. Holly Moon introduced Kimberly Foster a new employee in the Treasurer’s Office. Kimberly is familiar with the office having been an intern while in High School and for a brief stint worked there full-time. After graduation and college, she moved to Shepherdsville, KY with her husband. While there she held various positions at Amazon rising to a department lead. The Foster Family decided to move back to Newaygo County in November, and Treasurer Moon stated that she was thrilled to have Kimberly back in the Department.
County Register of Deeds Mr. Stewart Sanders introduced three employees from his department that was new or recently promoted.
Karen Totten new Chief Deputy Register. She and her husband moved back to the White Cloud area from the East side of the State. Karen is a former Meijer Store Manager. She has been in the Register of Deeds office for 3 years.
Deputy Register Nicole Visser started with the Department on July 31st of 2018 and was most recently the Office Manager for Best Homes in Newaygo. She and husband reside in the Newaygo Area.
New Register Amy Nelson was previously employed by Spectrum of Grand Rapids and resides in the Newaygo area.
County Clerk Jason Vanderstelt introduced Amanda Hunter as new Deputy Clerk – Elections Administrator. Amanda comes to the County Clerk’s Office from the Building Department, with high recommendations. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Valley State University.
The Commissioners welcomed and congratulated the new and newly promoted County employees.
White Cloud City Manager Lora Kalkofen was re-appointed to the Brownfield Authority Board for a three-year term.
Standing Committee Reports
Commissioner DeLaat presented the Finance Committee business.
During the Finance Committee reports Ms. Holly Moon presented a brief overview of the investment policy for Newaygo County to the new Commissioners as required by Public Act 20. In brief the Policy focuses on three objectives. Safety: the preservation of principal while mitigating credit and interest rate risks.
Liquidity: ensuring that the investment portfolio remains sufficiently liquid to enable the Treasurer to meet all reasonably anticipated operating requirements. And Return on Investments: Designing the Counties’ investment portfolio so that through budgetary and economic cycles and considering risks makes money over the long term. Treasurer Moon explained further how she structured investments and discussed the impact of current market volatility.
The Board approved the proposal to extend the contract with Rehmann Robson LLC for auditing services for three years, 2019, 2020, and 2021. The Proposal was supported by County Administrator Wren.
Miscellaneous Committee Reports
Commissioner Maike reported that he had recently attended a Newaygo County Community Collaborative (NC3) meeting. In this meeting of a group of area business executives had attended and are working to help curb poverty in Newaygo County. One initiative is developing ‘Randy’s House’ located in Newaygo City. Commissioner Maike also mentioned a planned expansion of the HarbisonWalker International, Inc Refractory facilities located at 1301 East 8th Street, White Cloud, MI and in Everett Township.
Commissioner Trapp reported that the Board of Public Work had a meeting and they are getting close to having an operational prototype of a Recycling Facility in Fremont. Commissioner Trapp mentioned that the Fremont Area Community Foundation had been a strong supporter of the Recycling Facility and the ongoing efforts to find a long-term solution to Newaygo County’s Recycling needs. Drain Commissioner Dale Twing of the same meeting also reported that he was working with Newaygo County ISD to recruit volunteers to staff operations at the prototype Recycling Facility. Commissioner Twing described the features and amenities at the facility and stated there will be a press release forthcoming when the opening date for the Recycling Facility is determined.
Administrator Wren reported on the proceedings of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission and noted that the County had received their Grant Agreement from the State. More details will follow as Newaygo and other Counties work through the details of the Grant Agreement with the State. Commissioner Wren is currently interviewing candidates for the Indigent Administrator Position.
It is being recommended that the County Building Department move in a new direction in order to provide ongoing Building Inspection services to County residents, contractors and other users. The Townships have been notified of the proposed new direction. Contract(s) to that effect will be presented to the Finance Committee next week and then to the full Board after that. The Board will have an opportunity to review and approve all service contracts.
Newaygo County in collaboration with eight other Counties is close to finalizing negations with a Forensic Pathologist to bring those services to the Morgue in Big Rapids. This will be the first-ever County or Publicly operated Morgue in the State of Michigan.
The County has received generous awards from the Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF). Those were in the sum of $500,000 for the construction of Michigan Dragon Trail at Hardy Pond, $75,000 match for recycling services, and a $630,000 loan at 1 percent for improvements at the Central Dispatch Facilities. The County appreciates the generosity and continued partnership with the FACF.
There has been $8,298.00 added to the budget for the Crime Victims’ Rights program for the fiscal year 2019. Of that amount about $3,000. been allocated to Ancillary Direct Victim’s Needs program.
County Prosecutor Worth Stay discussed details of the Crime Victims ‘Rights Program. Specifically, the Ancillary Direct Victim’s needs which include, request and reimbursement for travel cost, replacing broken locks, or broken windows and cost to damaged security systems. Prosecutor Stay discussed the policy for informing victims about the program and the various forms and procedures for getting work done and paying vendors for those services.
The Board of Commissioners quickly and with thanks from the Administrator and other Commissioners for her service reappointed Abigail Watkins as Director of Newaygo Emergency Services Director.
And quickly approved of 2018 Edition of Newaygo County Emergency Operation Plan that is developed and managed by Director Watkins.
As a benchmark for their first Commissioner Meeting each of four new Commissioners was asked by the N3 Correspondent what their goals were or what they hoped to accomplish in their first term of office. The answers follow.
From Commissioner Cooper: “I've always been a supporter of Public Safety (Emergency Services, Law Enforcement, Dispatch, and Disaster Support) and Veterans services (retired military and former Newaygo County Veterans Affairs Committee member), having been personally involved in or interacted with all these areas. Now, I'm looking forward to supporting them at a Commissioner-level. In addition, supporting job training and economic growth for Newaygo County by serving on the boards of Michigan Works-West Central Board and the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.”
From Commissioner DeLaat: “I hope to effectively represent the interests of the people who elected me as their commissioner. A large part of this involves helping to ensure the financial health of our county while continuing to provide the necessary services our community requires. This is a continuing and ongoing challenge as the need continues to grow while resources are often limited.My hope is for our board to support efforts being made locally to face the challenges of workforce development, affordable housing, and the changing economic landscape. The area looks to experience growth in the near future and we need to be prepared for what that growth will mean to our communities.”
Commissioner Bird: “As far as my goals for this job, it is the same as my way of life; to serve people to the best of my ability. Holding fast to the right and focus on doing good!”
Commissioner Kruithoff: “My goals as a commissioner are to help keep our County going in a positive direction, being on the physical and Economic Development Committee, I look forward to improvements and repairs on our County buildings and parks and continue to make Newaygo County a tourism destination. I look forward to serving our County as a Commissioner. Thank you.”
The next Board of Commissioners Meeting will be held on January 23.
The County Offices will be closed on January 21 to observe Martin Luther King Day.
January is School Board Recognition Month. This is a time to recognize the individuals who approach their volunteer work like it is a full-time job and with extraordinary dedication to public schools. They are citizens whose decisions affect our children and build our community.
School boards are charged with making decisions that can sometimes be quite difficult, or require sifting through a great deal of information. They contribute hundreds of hours each year leading our schools. Collectively, school board members across the state spend more than 7,500 hours on professional development to keep well-informed of the latest trends in educational leadership, are deeply involved in community activities and spend many hours at extracurricular events.
Through their dedication, governance, advocacy and collaboration with other school district staff, they are building the future of education in Michigan.
This month, we encourage all members of the community to thank a board member. Please take this opportunity to show your appreciation for these servant leaders and begin to better understand how local trustees work together to prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders.
The men and women serving the public schools in Newaygo County are:
Big Jackson Public School: Charlotte Lockerby, Laura Johnson, Brad Crawford, Sue Jones, Lynn Ulman
Fremont Public Schools: Ed Wosinski, Terri Blake, Rick St. Peter, Matt Hendrie, Jennifer Scott, Kevin Kaastra, Crystal Calkins
Grant Public Schools: Kris Lesley, Shawn Moore, Neil Geers, Dianne Ring, Damon Arsenault, Jill Niewiadomski, George Brown
Hesperia Community Schools: Scott Wenberg, Ryan Good, Michelle K. Allen, Julie Burrell, Alan Daniels, Mary Sturtevant, Mark Kraus
Newaygo Public Schools: Vince Grodus, Bret Brummel, Reid Sherwood, Melissa Swinehart, Morgan Heinzman, Thomas Frisbie, Jami Schultz
White Cloud Public Schools: Holly Bowman, Megan Cruzan, Keith Derks, Elaine Engel, Jim Jones, Mindy Mench, Harry Stevens
Newaygo County RESA: David Hewitt, Ed Haynor, Karen Kasankiewicz, Laura Johnson, Sarah Robinson
Western & Southern Financial Group announced the completion of its purchase of Gerber Life Insurance Company, a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Nestlé S.A., on Dec. 31, 2018.
The purchase includes a long-term license to use certain Gerber Life intellectual property, including the Gerber Life name and logo, in connection with certain financial services. The deal brings a leading direct-to-consumer life insurer and renowned brand to Western & Southern’s diversified family of financial services businesses.
The $1.55 billion purchase was announced by Nestlé and Western & Southern in September.
Gerber Life, headquartered in White Plains, New York, brings its valuable product offerings and focus on protecting families to the Cincinnati-based company that began selling life insurance door to door 130 years ago and is now one of the strongest life insurance groups in the world.
“We are thrilled to welcome Gerber Life to our family of companies,” said John F. Barrett, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Western & Southern. “As we said when we announced the purchase agreement, this iconic and trusted consumer brand is a compelling fit for Western & Southern, which has always been a human institution serving human needs with tailored financial solutions that are easy for our clients to understand. Our two companies share a common mission of providing financial strength and security to the ones we love.”
Founded in 1967 as a financially separate affiliate of the Gerber Products Company, “the baby food people,” Gerber Life specializes in providing simplified life insurance products to underserved middle-income families as well as medical stop-loss insurance to small and medium-sized businesses. Nestlé, the largest food and beverage company in the world, acquired Gerber Products and Gerber Life in 2007.
Gerber Life’s $52 billion of life insurance in force and 3.6 million individual life policies will expand Western & Southern’s policyholder base and enhance its product profile by increasing its ratio of life insurance business to annuity business.
Approximately 500 associates make up Gerber Life’s workforce, distributed between the company’s headquarters in White Plains and an operations center in Fremont, Michigan. Current plans call for all to remain in place.
Randy’s House a recovery residence program currently operating homes in Greenville delivered a presentation to the community Thursday night at Loomis Lodge. The program seeks to purchase one house and lease another in the downtown Newaygo district to provide recovery services to individuals who are in the process of rebuilding their lives after battling addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs.
The plans include a 20 bed men’s residence and a 12 bed residence for women.
Executive Director Mike Helmer was joined by a number of staff members at the presentation.
Helmer described how the program began and outlined the structure of the current residences with regard to the services provided as well as the guidelines they have for the participants in the program.
He and the Randy's House staff, who are primarily graduates of the program, then responded to the questions posed by attendees regarding any possible impact the program would have on the city and spoke to the positive relationships the program has maintained with the Greenville community. They also received comments from several individuals supporting their efforts with many expressing the need for such programming in our area.
The Newaygo City Planning Commission will take comments on the matter during their meeting taking place this coming Tuesday, January 8th at 6:30pm in City Hall.
Should the program be given the ok to move forward with its plans, the matter will go to the City Council for their approval at their next meeting on Monday, January 14th at 7pm.
For more information here is the website for Randy’s House:
A look back at 2018 news and newsmakers
It’s been quite a year in our patch of peninsular paradise with newsmakers ranging from weather to Wise Men and Meijer to marijuana. Here’s a few of the highlights and lowlights we covered during this past spin around the sun.
Gerber Hospital turned 100 and Gerber Life was sold.
The hospital hit the century mark with some fanfare and saw a changing of the guard as well when Randy Stasik announced the end of his decade long run as President of what is now called Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial.
Nestle let go of the Gerber insurance brand with the sale to Western & Southern Financial Group for a cool 1½ billion bucks.
White Cloud emerged from the fires that razed the city’s Board of Public Works building and the Eagles club with new structures. The city also saw the county’s first medical marijuana dispensary White River Wellness appear on the north end of town as it awaits permission from the state to open.
Fire also closed up the unique lakeside dining opportunity known as Smuggler’s Cove in August much to the dismay of lake resident regulars and patrons from near and far.. No word as yet on whether there will ever be a reopening.
In early February ice issues forced closure of the road over Hardy Dam then later in the month flooding brought response from the always well prepared (thank you Abby Watkins) team from Emergency Management to ensure the safety of our river residents. The same group responded when the early May Oak Wildfire in southeastern Brooks Township consumed a bit over 100 acres of National Forest as well as the attention of folks near and far.
In April the long awaited groundbreaking of the Meijer store in Fremont and the community has been champing at the bit ever since as folks await the April 2019 opening (just three months away!).
In late October Judge Graydon Dimkoff was removed from office just two months from his December 31st retirement under the spectre of harassment accusations. He responded via a television interview denying any inappropriate action on his part.
The following week, in a two person race for the seat he was retiring from on the probate bench, local attorney Melissa Dykman emerged as the winner.
Four new commissioners take their spots on the 7 person county board in January after the November elections and the recreational marijuana law that passed statewide spurred Newaygo and Grant to ban recreational marijuana outlets. Medical marijuana licenses, however, were granted in Brooks Township and the cities of Newaygo and White Cloud earlier this year.
Best sports story of the year? The Holton High School football team pulled off the improbable. The scrappy Red Devil squad shook off a late season slide that caused them to barely squeak into the postseason then regrouped and made a historic run to the D8 semi finals. Holton’s remarkable run ended a game short of a Ford Field appearance as they were stopped by the Reading Rangers who would claim the state title the following week.
Recreationally, a group of dedicated paddlers freed up a water route on the White River from the Cloud to Hesperia and progress continued toward the ambitious project “The Dragon” a non motorized path that will allow bikers and hikers to circumnavigate Hardy Pond.
The Dogwood not only brought in a wide variety of top level entertainment to our area they embarked on an ambitious project to provide easier access to the much valued venue. While construction progresses, fundraising efforts continue with donations received from throughout the community.
LionHeart brought “Mary Poppins” to the Grant Fine Arts Center for their annual musical, a timely choice given the recent release of the new movie version.
And, of course, there were the Wise Guys.
No article this year, including the Meijer stories that tend to catch fire on our pages, came close to the response we got from the Wise Men controversy that culminated (for the time being) in a school board decision to not remove them as requested.
Has this one been put to rest? Perhaps not, but this year the Wise Men returned to their place on the hill overlooking Newaygo and despite the furor that put the town on TV and lit up social media, the Wise Men stayed.
These are just a few of the stories that found themselves on our pages in 2018.
Missed any? Go to our home page and type in a word or two or a bit of subject matter in our Near North Now search box and you will be transported to the story.
And now it is 2019.
No one knows for sure what will crack the local headlines this year. We live in an area that is experiencing change in many ways and the coming year will shed some light on how those changes will affect our community
Whatever comes down the pike we will continue to strive to bring you the stories as they unfold all the while entertaining you with our columnists, reviews, feature articles and your input from letters to the editor and guest articles.
In the meantime enjoy your New Year, embrace change, eschew obfuscation, when given the choice of being right or kind, choose kind, and above all watch for the proliferation of those pesky shoes alongside of the road.