Concerned About Climate Change?
Newaygo County Environmental Forum hosted by Citizen’s Watch Coalition August 17th
Guest speakers from the National and State perspectives will join local leaders and community stakeholders in a robust discussion on Climate Change; its impacts on our home, actions residents can take to make a difference, and the value of Youth activism. The event, Democracy Is the Solution to Climate Change – 2019 Newaygo County Environmental Forum, will be held at Loomis Lodge in Newaygo on Saturday, August 17th from 11:30am – 3:30pm.
Newaygo resident and three-term Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, will preside over the stage and participate in a Q&A panel featuring other local leaders representing our Faith Communities, county government, township boards, and local political groups. Speakers representing Climate Reality Project, Michigan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and Sunrise Movement will present during the multifaceted event.
There will be a free door raffle with gift packages from local businesses. Local and state organizations will have information and action booths for continued engagement. There will be time for networking and refreshments. This event is designed to serve the Newaygo County community, all are welcome. It is essential that all county residents are represented and provided resources to better their home.
This event is a prelude to the Newaygo County Climate March which will be held on Saturday, September 14th. The march will be staged at Brooks Park in Newaygo at noon.
The Citizen’s Environmental Watch & Action Coalition of Newaygo County (CEWAC) and 3R Environmental Education, a Michigan nonprofit, have created the events to help residents identify and implement local actions which can have global impact. They believe communities can achieve solutions to environmental concerns by increasing participation in democracy. Through collective, bi-partisan work, Newaygo County residents can preserve and protect our environmental heritage and model stewardship for future generations.
3R Environmental Education’s mission is to foster green mindfulness and enhance the environmental health and beauty of Newaygo County by educating residents about the three ‘Rs’ of environmental sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 3R’s volunteer arm created CEWAC in order to broaden the organizations’ environmental focus and identify avenues of engagement to create lasting cultural and policy change in Newaygo County.
For more information please contact Nick Looman at 231-924-5822 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Governor's office:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency for Lake County in response to the county’s request for state assistance to respond to the impacts of heavy rainfall and flooding on July 20.
“Lake County’s first responders and others have done a great job keeping the community safe throughout this emergency,” said Whitmer. “This emergency declaration enables the state to provide personnel, supplies, equipment or other resources as requested by the county to help with recovery efforts.”
By declaring a state of emergency, the governor has made available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts in the designated area. The declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) to coordinate state efforts above and beyond what MSP/EMHSD has already been doing in conjunction with local agencies.
“Our division staff have worked with Lake County Emergency Management throughout this event,” said Capt. Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “This ongoing partnership with our local officials ensures we are able to provide needed resources to speed up the recovery.”
On July 20, heavy rainfall and resulting flooding in Lake County, damaged infrastructure and private property. The county formally requested a governor’s declaration on July 26.
Lake County declared a local state of emergency on July 22, which activated local emergency response and recovery plans. By requesting a governor’s declaration, the county has determined local resources are insufficient to address the situation and state assistance is required to protect the health, safety and property to lessen or avert the threat of a crisis.
To Spray or Not to Spray?
A Few Minutes With: Director Kelly Smith of the Newaygo County Road Commission
I would like to address the concerns over the use of chemical sprays for brush control.
For years we have struggled to keep up with the overgrown roadsides, we have purchased larger more modern equipment, we have contracted with commercial roadside mowers, we have dedicated more finances and resources than ever just to fall further and further behind.
Our customer concerns over shortened sight distance and obscured signs had grown to epidemic proportions and mowing has shown to give us a very short window of relief as well as in some cases just spreading the regrowth. In short, we needed a longer lasting, cost effective remedy to resolve our safety concern. Now that does not mean we completely ignore the environmental, we rely on those governmental entities as well as the industry professionals to guide us in a program. That is where MDEQ ( now known as EGLE) comes in, our licensed spray contractor must work with and through EGLE for their approval before spraying.
So we decided it was time to work on a plan to reclaim the r-o-w and provide a reasonable amount of clear vision along and down the roadsides. The plan would entail picking those townships that were deemed most in need, and move our “ brush hogs” as we call them in and start mowing. We then would schedule the application for the following late spring, early summer, and our intent is to mainly target the regrowth at ground level and avoid as much as possible the low hanging limbs. Now keep in mind we have 2 machines to cover 24 townships with 1400 miles of roadway and it can take 2 months to cover a township depending on brush density and terrain. Also keep in mind depending on weather , we may only get 8 months of mowing, as once snow banks get established mowing stops and not to mention that sometimes other issues take precedence over mowing and it is put on hold. So in reality, 5-6 years is a realistic timeline to cover the county and that simply will not keep up with the growth.
We have been spraying for 3 years now, the first year was in small targeted areas to see how it performed on the woody/brush, and what impacts it had on the vegetation we were not trying to address and what if any regrowth we saw the following year. The results were promising, virtually zero regrowth of brush, non targeted vegetation seemed unaffected, and it was cost effective. We then moved forward with a plan on a township to township basis, again we mowed one year and sprayed the next and only targeting woody/brushy vegetation with a select spray formula and only spot spraying, not wholesale complete roadside spraying. For the most part it went unnoticed for a couple seasons until now. Yes, we see the dead and dying leaves in the non-mowed areas, not at all what we are looking for. Again, we are hoping to target ground level sprout regrowth and the fact is we stepped our program and at this time it is unsightly and we apologize for that. But we also see the results from the previous years application and there is a dramatic difference in appearance and we expect the same in a few months from this years application.
Now as for the debate over the use of chemicals in general, I am not going too. We rely on the agencies that govern their use, professionals that are trained in the field and those that have the knowledge of the proper, safe and effective uses of said chemicals. But what I will say is, we see them everywhere in everyday uses, farm fields, powerlines, drain ditches, yards, golf courses, they are everywhere. We have conservation districts asking for herbicide treatment for invasive species, we have been required to spray/treat areas as part of bridge projects. Yes we know that some are completely against any and all chemicals and we certainly will entertain alternatives that are approved and proven to be effective.
The Reader's Digest version.
We know some do not like the application of chemicals, we hear you and we will be mindful of it as we work to provide you a reasonably safe and efficient road system. We ask that you have some faith in us and know we aren’t just out there looking kill all vegetation known to man and we do try and be educated on these sensitive issues.
We see the results of this years application at this stage of the program and we do not like its appearance either, we can do better and we will.
Moving forward we will have the contractor back for a road trip around the townships treated this year versus previous years and give them guidance as to our wishes for them to mainly focus on ground spray more than low hanging limbs.
In closing, I can assure you all, staff here takes your impression of them and the work they do, seriously and even personally, as they are out there for you. We will make adjustments moving forward in an effort to provide the road system you need in as safe, cost effective and environmentally friendly manner.
Cutting The Ribbon At HWI
With employees, public officials and members of the community looking on a team of HWI executives and management, along with Representative Scott VanSingel, Senator Jon Bumstead and Julie Burrell of The Right Place cut the ribbon to officially open the new expansion at their White Cloud facility.
The expansion will include increased manufacturing space, the installation of new manufacturing technology, and expanded warehousing capabilities. The recently completed project will increase floor space by 35% and result in more jobs at the plant.
See previous article for more details:
Outage Credit Available?
Catastrophic designation changes guidelines
With our county experiencing extensive and lengthy power outages we inquired with the folks at Consumers Energy about the prospect of outage credit.
With more than 10 percent of Consumers Energy’s 1.8 million electric customers experiencing an outage (220,000+ customers) from the weekend storm system, this event is considered catastrophic by Michigan Public Service Commission guidelines.
Because of the catastrophic designation customers will only qualify for an Electric Outage Credit if they experience an outage that lasts more than 120 hours during this event. To find more information, including all the ways to qualify for a $25 Electric Outage Credit, please visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/OutageCenter.
Snorkeling The Shallows
Summer Magic teens take to the water
Story and photos by Lola Harmon Ramsey
The Diamond Lake County park was a perfect location to host the Newaygo County PCA “Summer Magic” teen program on Monday. With sparkling blue water and more than twenty excited teenagers arriving from their various home bases, the group was met with volunteers from a number of local conservation organizations who were ready to share their expertise on fishing, water quality testing, amphibious life, and snorkeling.
Doug Harmon, a local SCUBA dive master instructed the teens on how to snorkel and find wildlife. The attendees were each fitted with a mask and snorkel and sent on their way to explore the shallows of Diamond Lake.
Students could then join representatives from the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly who were on hand to sample the water, take sand samples and to collect plant life or bugs to explore the health of Diamond Lake. The Newaygo County Conservation District was also on hand to assist the youths with fishing and the collection of water foliage samples.
When the afternoon was complete, the teens were able to take their mask and snorkel home which was a gift from the Muskegon Area Watershed Assembly and a grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation. Every teen also received their own fishing pole to take with them as a gift from the U.S. Forest Service.
Property Auction Coming August 15th
Newaygo County will be holding its first auction of foreclosed property for nonpayment of the 2016 property taxes on August 15, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. in the Board of Commissioners Room in White Cloud.
“We are very proud of our work in the Treasurer’s Office helping taxpayers save their properties,” stated Holly Moon, Newaygo County Treasurer. “This year we have 86 total foreclosures with many of these properties given up freely by the owners. Fifty-six (56) of the 86 total parcels are small lots located in one of our northern townships. The remaining 30 parcels are spread across the other 27 townships and cities in Newaygo County with many local units having no foreclosures at all. We also granted 67 extensions this year due to financial hardship, and we typically see a 90+% success rate on these extensions."
The upcoming auction is open to the public and registration begins at 12:00 p.m. On-line registration will be available prior to the sale by link on the County Treasurer’s webpage or the Auctioneer’s website: www.BippusUSA.com. A potential buyer must bring a $1,000 deposit in the form of cash or certified check made out to themselves in order to register. If a person is a successful bidder, the deposit will apply towards their purchase and the balance of the transaction is due by 5:00 p.m. on the day of auction. If a bidder does not purchase, they will receive their deposit back in full the day of auction. There is a 10% buyer’s premium and a $59 deed preparation fee added to each parcel purchased. According to State statute, buyers must pay the 2019 summer tax bill before the deed can be executed.
The list of properties available for auction along with pictures, maps, summer tax amounts, and minimum bids can be found on the County website: www.countyofnewaygo.com; then use the link there to navigate to the County Treasurer’s page and select the “Properties for Auction” tab. You will find Frequently Asked Questions and the Terms and Conditions of the auction located there as well. The Newaygo County Treasurer’s Office has hard copies of the property list available for purchase at $12 each.
All properties offered at auction are sold “as is” “where is.” It is the buyer's responsibility to do their homework as to their desired use of a property, and to execute any eviction process that may be necessary if they purchase. This auction is for the real property only, and the buyer will receive a Quit Claim Deed to the property. There are no liens carrying forward on any of the parcels offered, but the new buyer is responsible for the 2019 summer bill, and all future property tax bills.
Any parcels not sold on August 15, 2019, will be offered again on September 26, 2019. This auction will be run the same as the August auction with the possibility of some additional parcels being added for property owners who received an extension and did not pay by the extension deadline. On-line registration will also be available by link on the County Treasurer’s webpage for the September Auction.
“Foreclosures continue to be a top priority for my Office, and we recognize the need to help taxpayers struggling with this issue,” stated Holly Moon, County Treasurer. “We can’t erase the foreclosures or the economic challenges that taxpayers face in our community, but we are always fighting back in Newaygo County. The earlier taxpayers reach out to us for help, the more options we can provide for them.” Holly further stated, “It’s my job to collect delinquent taxes. Foreclosure is what is mandated by law when the delinquent taxes are not paid.”
The Dragon Cometh
FERC approval moves trail project forward
By N3 News Team
“The dragons do not dream. They are dreams.” Ursula K. Le Guin
What began as a bit of a dream took a giant leap toward becoming a reality this week.
Years in the making, the planned non-motorized trail circumnavigating Hardy Pond known as The Dragon looks ready to begin the building phase with the arrival of the long awaited approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
“On behalf of the Newaygo and Mecosta County Park Commissions we are very excited to receive approval from FERC,” said Newaygo County Parks Director Nick Smith. We want to thank Consumer's Energy and all of our partners that helped get us to this day.”
The Dragon will provide a 47 mile route bringing cyclists through some of the most picturesque terrain the region has to offer.
“This joint venture between both Park Commissions, Consumers Energy, and with the West Michigan Mountain Bike Alliance is a one of a kind project for this area and the greater midwest region,” added Smith. “We look forward to starting construction and providing a top of the line biking and hiking experience for residents and visitors.”
There were two recent informational meetings held at Sandy Beach and Brower Park. The Dragon is projected to bring a boost to the local economies of both counties meaning more jobs and more visitors to our area.
And when should we expect The Dragon to begin welcoming these new visitors?
"The trail will take about 2 full seasons to build,” replied the Parks Director.“Fundraising continues and we are quickly moving towards our 3.3 million goal."
The Bridge Is Back
The Colonial Bridge, closed since an auto accident three years ago, opened to traffic on Thursday. Our friends at the Road Commission sent this out on their site to announce the reopening of the crossing.
“We are happy to announce that the Colonial bridge is now open!! The contractor will be back to address some ride quality issues. We have appreciated your patience and understanding with the long process.
Expansion Coming to HWI
Township, Right Place help make it happen.
Today The Right Place, Inc. in collaboration with Everett Township, announced that global refractory product manufacturer and supplier, HarbisonWalker International (HWI), is investing $9 million in the company’s manufacturing plant at 1301 E. 8th Street in White Cloud.
HWI is increasing the floor space of the facility by 35%, adding to the northeastern corner of its existing plant. The expansion will include increased manufacturing space, the installation of new manufacturing technology, and expanded warehousing capabilities.
“This is a highly collaborative region. We have greatly enjoyed working with The Right Place team and Everett Township and thank them for working with us on this expansion process. We have found West Michigan to be a wonderful place to do business and we are very proud of our employee family in the region and the great service they provide for our customers,” said Kevin Ballard, senior director, engineering and process improvement, HarbisonWalker International.
HWI’s plant in White Cloud employs approximately 140 people and produces brick and monolithic refractory products, primarily for the U.S. steel industry. As manufacturing has grown in recent years, so too has the demand for HWI’s product portfolio. Faced with the need for expansion, HWI worked with The Right Place in collaboration with Everett Township to ensure the expansion happened locally. The Township is supporting the project with a P.A. 198 tax abatement.
“HarbisonWalker International is one of Newaygo County’s largest employers,” said Julie Burrell, Business Development Coordinator – Newaygo County and project lead, “As a global company with nearly 20 facilities worldwide, it’s a very competitive playing field. Their decision to expand the Everett Township plant over any of the others is an excellent indication of what our area has to offer to the business community.”
“We’re thrilled HarbisonWalker International has chosen to grow its presence in our community,” said Judy Maike, Township Supervisor, Everett Township, “We look forward to our continued partnership with HWI and the additional opportunities this project will create for our area residents.”
"The Right Time"
Swinehart’s Furniture to Close After 65 Years
Jon Swinehart, owner of Swinehart’s Furniture in Grant, will retire and the store will close after 65 years in business.
The furniture store opened in 1954 and was originally owned by Jon’s parents Howard & Helen Swinehart. They lived in the apartment above the store and raised their family of eight children there. In 1985, Jon & Cathy purchased the store from his parents. All of their children (Joe, Dana & Trisha) worked the family business while they were growing up, and various other family members have been known to help out when needed. Despite the appearance of “big box” and chain stores and the growth of online furniture sales, Swineharts stayed competitive by keeping prices reasonable, ensuring quality merchandise, adding special services such as free delivery, furniture repairs and their trademark small-town personal touch.
“The people who have done business with us over the years are not just customers... they are friends,” says Swinehart. “We will miss our clients and serving the area very much, but an unexpected opportunity presented itself, and it feels like the right time to retire.”
“Retiring from the work I’ve known my whole life will be an adjustment for Cathy and me, but we are looking forward to exploring and enjoying a new phase in our lives.”
Swinehart’s Furniture is running sales through July 26th, then will close for a week in preparation for a final inventory closeout starting August 2nd.
Jon & Cathy want to express sincere gratitude to their customers for their patronage and loyalty over the years. “We have truly enjoyed doing business with you! Thanks for the memories!”
The Gavel Is Passed
White Cloud Rotary Inducts New President
The White Cloud Rotary Club recently inducted Holly Moon as President of the Club for 2019-2020 year. Michele LaFontsee is President-Elect. Betty Carpenter will continue as Club Secretary, and Julia Bird, as Treasurer of the Club.
Scott Swinehart, Past President, (R) handed off the President’s gavel, and thanked Holly (L) for her willingness to devote her time to this position.
“It’s my distinct pleasure to serve the Club in this leadership role again,” stated Holly. “I am proud to be a member of this wonderful group of Rotarians!”
Holly also served as Club President in 2008-2009.
White Cloud Rotary is a volunteer organization based on the principle of ‘Service Above Self’ and the advancement of high ethical standards, goodwill and civic responsibility. The Club meets every Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. at The Eagles conference room in White Cloud.
What’s With The Bridge Signs?
Bridge work to begin on the 15th.
We were confused.
While press releases indicated a start date of 7-8 for the Newaygo M-37 bridge work the signs placed by MDOT sometimes changed the date to the 15th and then back again and continued to do this off and on for days.
Near North Now with diligent journalistic fervor contacted MDOT about the sign last weekend and word was passed along to the appropriate sources about the apparent gaffe.
Come Monday the 8th, the signs indeed changed indicating caution because of the work being done ahead.
Except there was no work being done.
We recontacted the most helpful John Richard of the MDOT communications department and he was able to root out that the project will indeed begin Monday July 15.
At least we’re pretty sure it will.
And Then There Were Four
Despite resignations (3) Hesperia still in limbo
Once again the Hesperia Village Council could not summon a quorum and once again the business meeting came to an end before it really began.
The resignation of Gerald Derks Jr. from the Hesperia Village Council received by the Village Clerk Monday came after months of no shows at council meetings and while recall advocates may applaud his departure it does little to alter the problem facing the bi-county town. Without a quorum the action necessary to replace the often absent and now resigned council member as well as filling the spots created by the resignations of Carol Kochans and Kristi DanBesten remains in limbo.
Meanwhile Council Member Mike Maynard the other half of the truant twosome has also not shown any inclination to attend the scheduled meetings. According to a story that got air time on WZZM-TV, Maynard stated he would not attend so long as the current Village President Mike Farber remains in office.
Much of the conflict appears to be over allowing a Medical Marijuana dispensary to operate in the village one of the heretofore unapproached agenda items for the council.
The next scheduled meeting will take place August 12th at 7:30pm.
Meeting scheduled for Monday, July 8 at 7:30pm
Hesperia just celebrated their annual Family Fun Fest with lots of folks taking part in the variety of activities and an epic fireworks display. There’s a lot of community spirit in the village that straddles the county lines of Newaygo and Oceana. They love their high school sports, the local library and enjoy the many other gifts small town Michigan living can bring.
But they can’t seem to get enough Village Council members together to hold a meeting these days.
As we have reported previously, two council members, Mike Maynard and Gerald Derks have not shown up since the scheduled assembly in March. Village President Mike Farber has called several meetings to order over the past months only to see them end with the council falling short of the requisite numbers needed to hold a meeting.
“It’s frustrating,” said Farber. “They are keeping us from moving forward as a town. Fortunately we have a great staff. Our clerk, office personnel, the police chief, our public works, they’re all doing an outstanding job despite the issues on the council.”
Recall language for one of the two in absentia members has apparently been accepted.
Until further action is taken or a change during the November elections occurs those who attend tonight in hopes of seeing a meeting take place could continue to come away disappointed.
“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic.”- Dan Rather
In case the revelry of celebrating the 4th allowed this item of information to escape your mind the bridge work on the M-37 bridge in Newaygo starts tomorrow, Monday July 8th.
The signs along the bridge foretelling the commencement of construction seem to be a bit confused as they have occasionally posted 7-15 as the onset date but info from the Department of Transportation indicates the beginning of the bridgework and subsequent summerlong snarl is indeed the 8th.
Tools for School applications available across Newaygo County
Applications are available for TrueNorth Community Services' Tools for School program at locations across Newaygo County, with a July 22 deadline to turn them in to TrueNorth.
Tools for School provides students from qualifying low-income families with new backpacks filled with essential school supplies.
“The program is for kindergarten through 12th grade students living in or attending school in Newaygo County for the 2019-2020 school year,” said Mike Voyt, Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator for TrueNorth. “We expect to serve more than 1,000 Newaygo County students this year.”
The 16th annual Tools for School Expo is Tuesday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the TrueNorth Service Center, 6308 South Warner Avenue in Fremont. The program’s sponsors are The Gerber Foundation and the Fremont Area Community Foundation.
Tools for School applications are available at libraries, including Croton Township Library, Newaygo; Fremont Area District Library, Fremont; Grant Area District Library, Grant; Newaygo Area District Library, Newaygo; and White Cloud Community Library, White Cloud.
The applications are also available at FiveCAP, Inc., White Cloud; Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' Newaygo County offices, White Cloud; Newaygo Child Development Center Croton, Newaygo; Newaygo County Community Mental Health, White Cloud; and at TrueNorth. The application is also on TrueNorth’s website at http://bit.ly/ToolsForSchool2019App.
The application was also distributed through Newaygo County schools: Big Jackson Public Schools, Paris; Fremont Public Schools, Fremont; Grant Public Schools, Grant; Hesperia Community Schools, Hesperia; Newaygo Public Schools, Newaygo; and White Cloud Public Schools, White Cloud.
For more information, contact Voyt at email@example.com or (231) 924-0641, ext. 119.
New Hours at Fremont Recycling
Changes start Monday, July 8.
The Fremont site for recycling, developed as a prototype for future recycling efforts has been a huge success since opening the gates this past February. With regulated hours the volunteer staffed location provides a seamless process for accessing the site. They also help to identify whether materials brought in are appropriate leading to a significant reduction in contamination from improper disposals along with providing some education for novice recyclers.
With the operation of the facility still rather new options continue to be explored as a way to increase efficiency, Beginning on Monday, July 8, the site will be adjusting their hours of operation to 9am-12pm Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.
3R will be handling the coordination of volunteers for the site.
“We are enthusiastic about the future of recycling in Newaygo County,” said 3R Executive Director Nick Looman. “As local awareness of our State and National recycling challenges increases, great people are stepping forward offering their time, energy, and ideas to a worthy cause.
“This won't work without a community effort and we’re excited to be playing a role in growing this program with our County Leaders.”
Want to help out? Volunteer opportunities give you the chance to do a little something for the environment while hanging out with some very cool people who care about reducing shipments to the landfill.
To lend a hand call the 3R office at 231-924-5822 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And for more information on 3R please go to www.3r-education.org