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 email@example.com 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.
A year in the rear-view mirror
By Charles Chandler
On the evening of December 4th Mayor Jamie Denslow, City Manager Lora Kalkofen, Council Members Jeffrey Murchison, Ashley Zatalokin, Charles Chandler, and Kay Scott, and Department of Public Works (DPW) Supervisor Don Barnhart assembled in the new White Cloud DPW barn for a long-awaited ribbon-cutting ceremony. Others attending this event were River Country Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Colleen Lynema and trustees, Dan Abid, Scott Swinehart, Ross Nelson, Rachel Bridges, and Pam Schwallier. White Cloud DDA member Bob Scarlavai and Planning Commissioners Jerry LeBlanc and Keith Payne, and Officer Scott Ingraham also attended.
Supervisor Barnhart had the honor of cutting the ribbon because it was almost a year to the day when he and Manager Kalkofen stood by on that cold night and watched the old DPW Barn and all its contents reduced to a pile of smoking rubble. The next morning after that devastating fire Manager Kalkofen and staff came to grips with the scope and scale of their loss, and of course, it began snowing again. The plow and sand trucks, pickups, back hoes, mowers, all water department tools, equipment, materials pieces, and parts were gone. Not a phone, pencil or pad of paper was to be had, all went up in smoke. The cause of the devastating fire was inconclusive.
After the smoke had cleared Manager Kalkofen developed an effective recovery plan and the City was on its way to an early 2018 Christmas present. Kalkofen quickly schedules a meeting with carrier B & H Insurance agents for a thorough coverage review. The next calls were to the County Road Commission and other Newaygo Municipalities for assistance. Arrangements were made with the Road Commission to plow City streets. After the Insurance review, the City Staff did a happy dance because the City had more than adequate coverage in all areas. Kalkofen developed and sent out RFPs and Bids and went shopping. Generous offers were made and deals struck with neighbors in Newaygo and Fremont and soon the DPW crew had two new red pickup trucks and other vital equipment. Jeffery Parkers Architects and G.P Construction LLC were selected and plans approved for the new DPW Barn. Mr. Neal Johnson was named the Construction Project Manager and he quickly moved his construction trailer on site and began work.
The City staff, Council and Planning Commission also started 2018 with challenges but ended the year with some impressive accomplishments. Early on there were some major changes in the personnel department. In January Mayor Jamie Denslow took the gavel and Ashley Zatalokin was seated on the Council. Continuing that trend the important Planning Commission had a significant turnover and seated new members Mayor Denslow, Mike Kymes, Lori Shears, Keith Payne, and a new Zoning Administrator Peter Morgan. Also, in 2018 this new Planning Commission completed the daunting and contentious project of revising the City Zoning Ordinances and Master Plan allowing more flexibility for commercial development. Other City new hires included April Storms, Deputy Clerk, and Treasurer and Police Officer Jason Fritsma. Office Fritsma will be the White Cloud Public Schools Police Liaison.
In 2018 the City in collaboration with several Newaygo County and State of Michigan agencies were able to execute some major infrastructure projects. These include a runway surface treatment project at the AirPort. Kalkofen working with MDOT and Pere Marquette Rail Line campaigned and received grants of about $250,000 for Railroad Crossing and Safety projects. Late this year the wretched Pine Hill Street Crossing was completely rehabilitated and a start date on the Safety Project is anticipated in early 2019.
In February the White Cloud Dam sustained damage from flood water spillover and again Kalkofen with help from Director Abby Watkins of the Newaygo County Emergency Services and OM&M Engineering obtained a $100,000 grant from FEMA for the necessary repairs. Regarding water, the City had all three water wells tested by an independent lab and no PFA contaminations were detected.
After about 10 years of saving a dollar here and there the City was able to complete much needed major and minor street repairs. Working with the Newaygo County Road Commission, the City was able to get attractive pricing on labor and materials and were able to spend about $125,000 in selected street repairs. Additionally, the City spruced up the Hall this year with new paint in and outside, new carpet and some furnishings including computing systems upgrades.
Now White Cloud's computer processing is in the basement and the storage is in the Cloud.
2018 was also a very good year for the City Industrial Park businesses. Ceres Solutions was the first customer to purchase property and build in the Industrial Park and their state-of-the-art feed mill was completed and became operational in early spring. At the end of the year, the City has received about $430,000 from property sales and all Industrial Park lots are sold or under contract. Currently, there are three companies planning various Medical Marijuana operations in the Park. After discussion with these operators, it is anticipated that between 50 and 70 new jobs will be created here in White Cloud.
In 2018 three new businesses opened in White Cloud, ZZ Wild located at 1099 Wilcox, M 37 Auto Repair at 253 South Charles and White River Wellness at 194 North Charles. The White River Wellness was on track to open in October but are now on standby. They are awaiting the politicians in Lansing to get their act together and formalize a workable policy for both Medical and Legal Marijuana operations.
A new Special Needs Group Home is under construction at 355 North Street and the large Quality Surplus Sales building at 1109 Wilcox sold and the owner is offering rental space for new businesses.
And on a more local and personal note, White Cloud property values are moving in the right direction. There has been some turnover here on the front lines of the N3 White Cloud contributor’s desk. Longtime residents Coach Dave Roberts and Jenny at 100 South Webster Street and Businessman Eric Rudert at 75 Webster Street moved away this fall. The Gleason Family purchased the Roberts’s property and former resident and a White Cloud favorite Charley Twing and his family have purchased the Rudert property. Good neighbors moving out and good neighbors moving in.
Considering the start, 2018 has been a very good year for the City of White Cloud. Are there issues, and problems to be faced in 2019 certainly like most every other business and municipality. For continued economic development White Cloud must attract skilled professionals and experienced business owners and operators to the area. One of the limitations to that end is the lack of quality housing in the City and surrounding County. (Maybe we could build some nice lofts in the beautiful new DPW barn.)
The City has a good leadership team in place with Dan Evans our dedicated Chief of Police, efficient and effective City Manager Lora Kalkofen and her staff, and Mayor Jamie Denslow. They strongly believe in collaboration with the County and other area municipalities, using professional expertise when needed and making good long-term decisions for the City. They are bringing new and innovative ideas and methods to solve some of White Cloud embedded and anticipated problems.
It is expected that 2019 will be another good year for White Cloud.
Board votes unanimously to not take action for removal
By Ken DeLaat
Newaygo School Board President Vince Grodus addressed the crowd after the board came out of a closed session and delivered this motion:
“The Board has no desire to remove the display at this time.”
The crowd of nearly all of the 50 some folks who turned out responded with cheers and applause and after a unanimous roll call vote supporting the action the controversy over the Wise Men was put to rest for now.
The board heard from 10 people during the public comment with each voicing their desire to have the Wise Men remain in their place citing a tradition that has spanned over 7 decades and encouraged the board to not give in to what several speakers referred to as bullying by the group challenging the legality of the display.
The action also contained a directive to Superintendent Peg Mathis to look at possible adjustments in the future however the three figures that have graced the school each Christmas season will be allowed to remain without action from the board.
NCCA-Artsplace Winter Community Photography Contest Winners
The NCCA-Artsplace Winter Community Photography Contest is a free annual contest for all ages and all levels of skill with the theme "Baby, It's Cold Outside!". The 2018 contest winners were selected by Jacqueline Danielson of Fremont.
The first place award was given to Nan Pokerwinski of Newaygo for her photograph “Freeze!". Mark Andrews of Newaygo received second place for the entry “Ice Fishing on Croton Pond” and Sonya Vlastuin of Grant was awarded third place for “Winter Glow”. Honorable mention went to Susan Gilliland of Hesperia for her photograph "Whorls" and Delaney Cronk of Grant for "Brindle in Black and White".
All entries will be on display through January 5 in the corridor gallery at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street in downtown Fremont.
Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s medical fitness program team was awarded the Spectrum Health Synergy Award for most creative program in 2018, a medical fitness program called Momentum. The Gerber Memorial award winners, from left, front row: J.J. Schafer, fitness specialist coordinator; Matt Purtee, fitness specialist coordinator; Amanda Irwin, Tamarac Wellness Center manager; Justin Aman, Tamarac Wellness Center supervisor; and Dean Ford, Tamarac fitness specialist who is now supervisor at Spectrum Health Pennock’s Health and Wellness Center in Hastings. Standing, from left: Becky Strayer, Tamarac administrative support coordinator; Beth VanTreese, manager of rehabilitation services; Michael DeWeerd, MD; Josh Gustafson, director of regional community programs; and Kathleen Middaugh, fitness specialist coordinator.
Gerber Memorial staff win award for innovative medical fitness program
FREMONT – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s medical fitness program on Thursday, Nov. 29, was recognized with a Synergy Award, an annual prize that celebrates successes in safety, quality and innovation among Spectrum Health’s entire system throughout Michigan.
During a ceremony at Fredrik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, the Gerber Memorial team was recognized in the creativity category, for creating a new program that partners an individual’s health provider with fitness experts to help establish a sustainable pathway toward improving patients’ overall health and wellness, and prevent chronic diseases. The medical fitness program, called Momentum, brings together providers, community health and fitness experts and others throughout Gerber Memorial. Momentum is implemented at Tamarac, the first wellness center in West Michigan nationally recognized for quality and safety through the Medical Fitness Association (MFA) certification.
“Those who came together and collaborated on the Momentum medical fitness program are among the best at finding creative solutions to helping our patients safely achieve their health and wellness goals,” said Amanda Irwin, wellness center regional manager. “Momentum came out of us asking questions about how we can better serve our patients and what gaps we could fill. This took thinking outside the box and using the resources that we had at Gerber Memorial. Now, thanks to Momentum, we’re offering a medical fitness program that can greatly increase the number of people in our community who now have a safe and effective way to become active under the supervision of a qualified fitness specialist.”
Tamarac launched the Momentum medical fitness program this Spring. Momentum partners an individual’s health provider with fitness experts to help establish a sustainable pathway toward overall health and wellness. Momentum can benefit patients with a range of illness, including those with chronic diseases, diabetes, obesity, COPD, coronary artery disease, Parkinson’s disease and depression. The program is open to anyone who wants to incorporate the health benefits of exercise into overall wellness.
Using a nontraditional healthcare model, primary care providers, physical therapists, health coaches, care managers and fitness specialists work together to identify and partner with patients at high risk of future chronic disease. Through clinical pathways, Tamarac has provided best practice lifestyle medicine services to over 350 patients this year, with 40 percent of patients with elevated blood pressure now in the normal range, 55 percent improving muscular endurance, and collectively reducing their weight by 3 percent.
Momentum is a 12-week program. Cost is $99. For questions, contact 231.924.1600.
The annual Synergy prizes acknowledge extraordinary individual and team contributions to clinical or non-clinical care, processes, experiences, and quality and safety for our patients and their families.
New pot law means changes in law enforcement
On Thursday, December 6, the new law regarding recreational use of marijuana begins to take effect. The details can be found in our previous article at https://www.nearnorthnow.com/news/marijuana-now-what
What does this all mean for law enforcement?
Newaygo County Sheriff Bob Mendham was kind enough to field a few questions from N3 on the subject and herewith are his replies.
What has changed from the perspective of law enforcement?
The fact that adults 21 and older may have up to 2.5oz. of marijuana in their possession. Obviously this will be a huge change for law enforcement. We have many questions that have yet to be answered; Will folks think they can smoke in public? Will they sell their marijuana to others? Will people try to steal marijuana from others and will weapons or force be used? Will people break into homes if they know there is marijuana present?
What can people expect from the NCSD when it comes to marijuana use?
Our opinion and the directive we’ve given our deputies is that as long as folks are obeying the law we will take no action. Our job is to enforce the laws whether we agree with them or not. Our job is to serve and protect the citizens of Newaygo County, including those who are legally using marijuana.
What are situations that might require law enforcement intervention?
Law enforcement involvement will occur when and only when absolutely necessary. We anticipate trouble with citizens who possess more than legally allowed or use in public. Property crimes and driving violations that are related to marijuana use and possession. The use and possession of marijuana by minors and medical emergencies stemming from children who ingest edibles or adults that overindulge.
Our hope is that people obey the law and are cautious with the use, storage, and production of their marijuana. We will work with the public to properly enforce the new Recreational Marijuana Law and work to keep everyone safe. We ask that folks remember we are learning something new right along with them. The Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office is always available to answer any questions or concerns that folks may have.
Sheriff Bob Mendham
By Mark Mathis
Urban Legend seems to have decided that police dogs are in trouble, given the new legal status of marijuana in Michigan. Misguided reporters and trainers have at times claimed the dogs would need to be euthanized or retired. Those tales have been repeated until just about every corner of the internet has taken notice. While it all makes a great story, our four pawed friends are rather safe and secure in their jobs.
I’ve spent over 20 years training police dogs, testified in court as an expert on their training, written a boatload of professional articles, have a couple thousand street uses under my belt, and thoroughly enjoy the art of training a dog. Recently, several agencies have consulted me about the best path forward given the new status of marijuana in Michigan. My goal here is to simply provide a small primer to help give a clearer understanding of what is happening right now behind the scenes. If you love dogs, psychology, or even marijuana this should be a pretty fascinating read. I’ll try my best to keep it to everyday terms.
You must first understand how the dogs are initially trained. Police Dogs aren’t drug junkies, looking for their next fix of their favorite drugs. They are actually rabbit junkies, looking for the next animal to pop out of a box and try to run away.
Most American police dogs learn their drug odors in a game that looks like a dog version of three card monte. A whole host of drugs and tennis balls are placed into one box. The dog then has to figure out what box contains that all important odor. Once the dog locates the box and offers a correct behavior a ball/rabbit pops out and the chase is on.
A trainer will help a dog learn this process. When broken down it is pretty simple:
1. Use your nose to smell the boxes;
2. Find a box with the right smell;
4. Sit down;
5. A “rabbit/ball” pops out,
6. Great fun ensues.
In a matter of days the average police dog trainee can reliably search four random boxes and pick out the drug odors with great consistency. When you are a high drive police dog, rabbits rock!
Has your house dog ever watched you fix a sandwich at the counter and wanted some? Yours may whine, bark, scratch, jump, steal, bite, or watch intently for a dropped morsel. Each dog has a package of behaviors they will offer in an attempt to get what they want. These behaviors are your dog’s “rolodex.” (For my younger readers think of a favorite phone list that you access on a moment’s notice). Trainers reward the ones they want and help eliminate the ones that aren’t helpful.
If your dog gets food every time he barks, that behavior is going to move up the favorite list. If your dog jumps 22 times and each time is unsuccessful at getting food he will eventually start offering another behavior that actually works. The rolodex card that is reinforced will be accessed more quickly and the rolodex card that is never rewarded will disappear.
At the end of the three card monte, drug-dog kingpin edition, we remove the tennis balls from the boxes and use drugs only. The dogs have no problem finding the drugs without the tennis balls around anymore. (We still toss in a ball from a new mystery spot once the drugs are found.)
Finally, the dog will search a host of boxes: drug filled, empties, and boxes with just tennis balls. The dogs initially go to the tennis balls and start rolling through their rolodex of possible behaviors that would make a rabbit magically appear. It simply does not work. The dog will give up and go over and sit next to the drugs… and hocus-pocus a rabbit pops out! In very short order the dog could care less about tennis balls in a box — they do nothing in the all important game of rabbit. The offered and rewarded behavior for locating tennis balls disappears through “extinction”.
The Marijuana (Reefer)
Whatever concerns you have about legal Marijuana, don’t let police dogs be one of them. The dogs will go back to “basic” training. Through the game of rabbits and rolodexes trainers will make the previously offered behavior when smelling marijuana extinct.
We’ve eliminated responses to other odors using this game. Other odors are be placed out during a normal training day to make sure a dog does not indicate on it. On many training days you’ll find everything from wallets, cigarettes, tennis balls, food, and baking powder hidden in search areas. This is done as a confirmation to make sure that the dog is only indicating on the illegal substances. Marijuana, once it no longer elicits a response, will become another of these other distractor odors.
It’s harder to unlearn a behavior than learn it. So the task of eliminating any response to marijuana will take some time, consistency in training, and effort. Given a couple months the dogs will be able run across marijuana and leave it alone… just like they do tennis balls, tobacco, and McDonald’s quarter pounders.
How about right now? There are a smattering of dogs in the state that have never been trained on marijuana, including one in the N3 readership area. There are others undergoing this “extinction” training. There are still others in the state that plan to slightly modify use for the immediate future.
In simple terms the big issue is that Canine Teams that use their dogs to enter a vehicle without a search warrant will need a documented training and certification record. That record will need to show they reliably indicate only on items that are illegal to possess. Dogs that indicate on Quarter Pounders, Marijuana, or tennis balls won’t be able to be used for a search warrant exception.
So please fear not for your local police dog. Michigan’s Canine Teams are well positioned to adapt to a changing legal landscape.
Police Dog handlers, and dog lovers, can rejoice the internet isn’t always right on the details. Legal Marijuana isn’t really a concern of the average police dog. The dogs will be happy to hear that forced retirement shouldn’t be right around the corner.
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“It’s beginning to look a lot like……”
By N3 News Team
Next week Thursday.
That’s the date when legal recreational marijuana likely becomes a reality for Michigan residents after Proposal 1 passed by a significant margin in the November 6th election.
There are a number of licenses for medical marijuana facilities in our area. Brooks Township, White Cloud and Newaygo have all ok’d such facilities of one type or another and White Cloud’s White River Wellness provisioning center on the north end of the city has been primed for an opening for several months as it awaits what has become a plodding licensing process.
But this was all for medical marijuana. What about recreational?
Newaygo’s City Council acted quickly to become the first in our area to place a ban on recreational marijuana businesses just 6 days after the election. Grant’s elected officials did the same this past Monday and the others may follow suit if an effort by the Headway Coalition proves successful.
Members of Headway, the local substance abuse prevention group, voiced their opinion at both the Newaygo and Grant meetings and will likely be advocates for the ban in other areas as well.
Rachel Uganski, the Coalition Coordinator, explained that the team, including Law Enforcement throughout Newaygo County, feels passionately about keeping recreational marijuana establishments away from our city limits. “Dispensaries in the city limits will decrease the perception of risk among our kids and make it easier for them to access marijuana. These factors will increase youth marijuana use which has proven harmful to brain development.”
Others will welcome the change as evidenced by the close to 50% of Newaygo voters who supported the measure that passed in the state by a 56-44% margin.
As of September 2016, 1286 county residents had their cards to purchase medical marijuana with an additional 246 caregiver cards out there as well. By contrast in 2013 there were 767 patient cards and 318 caregivers.
That number in all forms of probability would likely fall short of the number of people in our county who use marijuana in one form or another.
In 2015 there were 178 marijuana related arrests in the county.
It would also be a good bet to assume that number also falls short of the number of people who have chosen to use cannabis despite the legal aspect.
But now it is legal in the State of Michigan while continuing to be against federal law.
The new law outlines the following:
Where do we go from here as a community where medical marijuana has already begun to have an economic foothold?
While it seems that the medical marijuana facilities would be the likely candidates for producing and selling the recreational product as well, could this be changed by municipalities imposing a ban?
And what about the law enforcement aspect?
We plan to explore this emergent issue in the coming days. Our hope is to gather some input from various entities in an effort to get an early read on how this change might impact our area.
Let us know your thoughts.
Operation C.A.R.E. Traffic Safety Effort Begins Today
LANSING-As motorists prepare to travel Michigan roads for the Thanksgiving holiday, Michigan State Police (MSP) troopers will be on patrol as part of Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness and Reduction Efforts) to encourage safe and responsible driving.
“We want everyone to make it to their Thanksgiving destination safely," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “Buckle up, put your phone down and always designate a sober driver, and if you see emergency vehicles or other workers on the side of the road, please slow down and give a lane.”
Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest holidays in Michigan for traffic crashes. In 2017, there were 11 fatalities during the holiday period. Out of the 11 fatalities, two were pedestrians, three were passengers and six crashes involved alcohol.
Beginning today and running through Sunday, Nov. 25, troopers across the state will conduct high-visibility enforcement focused on impaired driving, seat belt use, careless driving and speeding.
Operation C.A.R.E. is a nationwide initiative aimed at reducing traffic crashes and fatalities on highways across the country. It began in 1977 as a collaborative effort between the MSP and the Indiana State Police. Today, Operation C.A.R.E. is one of the nation’s longest running traffic safety initiatives and includes state and highway patrol agencies from all 50 states, as well as some American territories and Canadian provinces. Operation C.A.R.E. also includes participation from police agencies affiliated with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as well.
NFDC provides free services to veterans
On Friday, November 16th Newaygo Family Dental Care put on an impressive event for veterans when they offered up a day of checkups, exams, cleaning, x-rays and fillings at a special subsidized rate.
That’s right, free.
We stopped by the office mid morning and had a chat with Fremont veteran Jerry Wallace who had high praise for the staff.
“I am really appreciative of this,” said Wallace who served in the 101st Airborne from 1978-1983. “Everyone here has been just phenomenal.”
We spoke to Dr. Ross Nelson, who along with his partner (and father) Dr. Dennis Nelson put this idea into action.
This was a huge undertaking for a first time event. How did it go?
I thought it went really, really well. My team met every day this week for lunch and discussed the set up, the flow, the turnover, the follow up, and random scenarios that might occur and we played them out to try and not get tripped up. I thought that really paid off today. To be honest, I was really nervous since our facebook ad for the even got over 700 shares… I really didn’t want to have to turn away people. Luckily, we had just a nice steady flow of veterans and we were able to do multiple services on many of them which just added to the great feelings we had on the day.
How did the veterans you served react?
Response from the vets was amazing. They were patient, appreciative and interested in the care they were receiving. A lot of them opened up to myself and team members about personal plights and it made for some real organic connections.
Honestly, nothing surprised me today. My team planned really, really well for this. I keep feeling like a football coach answering this when I say how well the team prepared and took on their own tasks and worked together efficiently. I am really proud of the professionals at NFDC today.
Any takeaways on the day?
There’s a few tweaks for next year, how we will attack the day differently to serve the Vets better. We have Robin Clinton from Newaygo Therapeutic Massage coming in on Monday to give my team a well-deserved work break with a chair massage, just because I am so proud of them for how hard they worked. I’m looking forward to seeing these same Vets next year and hopefully a lot of new ones. We will certainly be ready to handle an increased amount of Vets next year.
Any last thoughts?
Beyond my team (who all volunteered their time) I want to thank my father, not that he isn’t a part of the team anyways, but because he doesn’t like the spotlight and he really deserves it. He made this place what it is and I’m really fortunate to work alongside him. My wife (Tara) and her friend Courtney Sikkenga for the support and coming out to chat with Veterans while they waited for treatment, several Guest Stars including Sue Mansfield who retired from NFDC last year and Gail Howarth who helps our office more than she knows. Cathy Oglesbee from Patterson Dental donated supplies for today’s event (and is always a positive supporter of our business) as well as Jeremy and Mitch from NG Dental Prosthetics- these guys are going to make some Partial Dentures for a few of the vets at no cost to them. Robin Clinton was also on-site today giving chair massages to the Vets, really awesome of her to join us today. I’m sure I am missing someone but I sincerely hope not, no way this happens without everyone who came today.
While there is always a lot of talk about helping those who have served our country NFDC stepped up big time with this initiative and plans are to make it an annual event.
When we made our morning visit the climate was pretty upbeat among the staff who created a welcoming atmosphere to go with the exceptional service provided the vets.
It was definitely a feel good event. The kind that takes the concept of paying it forward and makes it absolutely resonate through all who were involved.
Well done NFDC, well done indeed.
The fourteen schools of the CSAA Conference sent students and band directors to Newaygo High School for the CSAA Honors Band yearly practice and concert on November 13, 2018.
Students and directors arrived early during the day on Tuesday, quickly splitting into two groups with two separate directors. One director was Mr. Howard Wilson, a retired band director from Tri-County schools. The other was Mr. Matt Bishop, a retired band director from Grayling High School.
In order to be selected for this honor, band students must be nominated by their band director. Usually the selections are experienced juniors and seniors and first chair musicians.
Because this is an honors band experience, students are required to learn the music above and beyond what they are doing with their school bands. Students have about two weeks with the music prior to the day of honors band, but many are at the tail end of their competitive marching season while trying to prepare for this as well.
After practicing all day long, students gather together and perform a concert, which was held in Newaygo’s gymnasium. Each band performed 4 pieces.
Newaygo’s band director Katie Baynes said about the event that her favorite part is “when the kids make friends with the other band students from other schools. Some kids do multiple honors bands events with kids from other CSAA schools and with MSBOA as well. They look forward to seeing each other at each one.”
FESTIVAL OF THE WREATHS is a raffle of wreaths and other items donated by local businesses and individuals for the support of Hope 101 Ministry. The Festival will be held on November 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on December 1, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Hope 101 Ministry is hosting the event at Family of God Community Church, 90 Quarterline, Newaygo. It is being held in conjunction with Christmas in Newaygo a River Country Chamber of Commerce
event. Everyone is welcome to view the wreaths and other items that have been donated and have a chance to win your favorite.
Tickets will be sold at the door, $10 for 25 chances to win. The drawings will take place at 3:00 p.m. on December 1st. You do not need to be present to win.
There will be a Continental Breakfast with Santa on December 1 at 9:00 a.m.
All funds received will support Hope 101 Ministry, a transitional housing ministry that, with the help of God, is to provide a home-based program which offers Christian support, friendship and direction to empower participants to reach beyond their circumstances to a place of stability and self-sufficiency.
The following individuals and businesses have generously donated to Festival of Wreaths in support of Hope 101 Ministry:
Re/Max River Valley
Mary Jane’s Floral
Sue Ellen McCreary
M and J Hardware
Gene’s – Croton
Gerber Memorial honors service members at Veterans Day ceremony
FREMONT– Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial honored the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served the nation in uniform at a Veterans Day ceremony on Monday.
“We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication, and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” said keynote speaker Beth Coulier, Gerber Memorial’s director of nursing. “Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those who are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served. The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities. They possessed courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.”
The ceremony included a raising of the flag at Gerber Memorial’s Healing Garden and Memorial Walk, with the participation of Air Force 2nd Lt. Pete Modert. Around three dozen staff and guests attended the event.
Mary Johnson, RN, Gerber Memorial nursing supervisor, praised the courage of the men and women serving in uniform, both at the frontlines and away from combat.
“Courage doesn’t end at the battlefield,” said Johnson, who was also a medic in the Army National Guard treating combat veterans in the Persian Gulf. “It follows (service members) home, and we know we are seeing so many young men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s a whole different war than the Persian Gulf, than Korea, than Vietnam, than World War II. These people are coming home with head injuries, with PTS (post-traumatic stress), with amputations. And what courage it takes for them to continue on because that is a long, hard road.”