Local News

Eaton County votes to repeal; TOST is over

After 10 years of controversy, a Barry Eaton District Health Department regulation mandating inspection of on-site water and sewer systems and repair or replacement  if it is deemed failing before property can be sold or transferred is officially over.


The last step in the repeal of the time of sale or transfer or TOST was approved Wednesday by the Eaton County Board of Commissioners in a nine to 6 vote. With public hearings and votes to repeal by both county commissions done, the repeal becomes effective in 45 days.


Chairman of the Barry County Commission and also the Health Board, Commissioner Ben Geiger issued this statement:

"A long, dramatic chapter of our history is over. With the repeal of TOST now official, we can finally come together and seek out new and better ways to protect our environment without rehashing the fights of the past.


“This decade-long controversy was never about the quality of our natural resources. It was about the quality of our public policies.

“May county leaders, today and in the future, never forget the lessons made clear today - strong public policy requires strong public support, and when we demand higher standards of our residents, we must demand higher standards of our leaders.


“I applaud the Eaton County Board of Commissioners for taking action and putting this saga behind us. Together we can find a strategy for protecting public health, the landscapes we all love, and the rights we all cherish.”


Hastings schools to decide on bond proposal in April

The Hastings Board of Education approved to submit an application for a no-mill increase bond proposal, Superintendent Carrie Duits has confirmed.

'In April, the Board will vote on whether or not it goes on the ballot,” Duits said. “The application includes roofs and safety/security improvements throughout the district."

More information will be in an upcoming Superintendent’s Platform, Duits said.



Coalition of law enforcement, education professionals support school safety proposal

A coalition of Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Prosecuting Attorney Association of Michigan and the professional educational community have agreed to move its proposal for school safety forward to the state legislature, according to Blaine Koops,  former sheriff of Allegan County.


“Currently, there are 32 pieces of legislation on guns/safety in school. Rather than confronting all 32 pieces of legislation, our coalition of law enforcement, school officials and school mental health professionals have agreed on the legislation we will support,” Koops said.  


“School shootings and bomb threats dominate the headlines. Violence is followed by mourning, outrage, and calls for reform–time and again, the cycle repeats itself without any meaningful change.

“Michigan sheriffs, police, prosecutors, and school leaders agree– enough is enough. It’s time for change. The Michigan School Safety Reform Plan protects Michigan students and makes our schools safer,” Koops said.


The following is from a news release explaining the coalition’s school safety reform plan:


More “School Resource Officers” – sheriffs and police – in our schools. Michigan’s men and women in uniform dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe. In an emergency or a shooting situation they’re our children’s best hope. It’s time to give schools increased protection by police.


• The Michigan Student Safety Reform Plan creates a grant program to empower school districts to contract with local sheriff or police agencies for new and additional school resource

officers (SROs).


• Putting more sheriffs and police on school property and in school buildings will keep our children safer – and help prevent tragedies before they happen.


More school mental health professionals to identify problems early. School shooters often show signs of trouble long before an attack. School counselors and mental health professionals are the first line of aid and defense.


• Placing additional counselors and mental health professionals in our schools is a critical step in identifying and helping troubled students before it’s too late.


• The Michigan Student Safety Reform Plan gives school districts access to funding to hire additional school mental health professionals increasing the ratio of mental health professionals to students in districts statewide.


Safer Buildings for Students and Teachers.

Protecting students requires being proactive in securing school buildings.


• The reform plan requires a walk through by law enforcement officers of every school building in the state to identify safety issues and opportunities to harden schools against threats.


• Schools can use the results to apply for emergency funding to address safety liabilities.


Mandatory reporting, tougher penalties to stop shootings

before they happen. Reporting threats to law enforcement can stop tragedies before they happen, but too often threats and troubled students fall through the cracks.


• It’s time for mandatory reporting of threats against schools to law enforcement.


• A new graduated penalty range is needed for those who threaten schools and students to make reporting more likely and effective.


• Finally, let’s provide the ability to mandate mental health evaluations for every individual making a threat to better provide options for intervention and treatment.


Barry County man killed in crash

Michigan State Police say 62 year old Fred Barry, a resident of Barry County, died from injuries resulting from a crash that happened around 8:45pm Tuesday night on East State Road near Becker Road east of Hastings.


Barry was driving westbound on State Road when his Ford pickup truck left the roadway and struck a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no other occupants in the truck. The cause of the crash remains undetermined.


State Police were assisted at the scene by the Barry County Sheriff’s office and the Hastings Fire Department. The crash remains under investigation.



Improving health and well-being of Barry County residents topic at free forum

Barry County residents are invited to join a discussion on the state of health in Barry County and how to improve the health and well-being of its residents and employees.


A Leadership Forum, sponsored by the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and B. Healthy Coalition on Friday, March 23 begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast, followed by a program and question and answer period from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.


The forum will discuss the possibly of Barry County becoming a Blue Zone; a systemic approach to improving well-being based on principles identified  during a 10-year, worldwide study by National Geographic and detailed in Dan Buettner’s book titled “Blue Zones.”


Tony Buettner, senior vice president of Blue Zone, is keynote speaker.

The mission of B. Healthy coalition is to foster an active, healthy community with policies and environmental changes that make the healthy choice the easy choice for all Barry County residents.


The event at the Barry County Enrichment Center, at 231, South Broadway in Hastings is free, however there is limited seating. Register at For more, visit


Barry County citizen's committee and board positions filled; airport manager's contract amended

The Barry County Commission Tuesday recommended amending Hastings City Barry County Airport Manager Mark Noteboom’s three year agreement with the Airport Commission to clarify his status as an independent contractor in matters to do with local, state and federal law.


The airport board has approved the agreement, which provides for management services at the airport. County Commissioners who sit on the board, Jon Smelker and Vivian Conner, stressed that the $79,000 Noteboom will get annually is not a raise in salary becasue Noteboom will pay for gas, oil and insurance as an independent contractor.


With the modification of the agreement, it fully meets the IRS requirements for Noteboom's  independent contractor status, which Noteboom requested, County Administrator Michael Brown said.

The Hastings City Council, as part of a Joint Operating Agreement of the airport with the county, must also approve the amended contract.


In other business, several citizens for positions on county boards and committees were recommended which includes:


*reappointing Craig Stolsonburg to a one-year term on the Tax Allocation Board, with Commissioner David Jackson as commission representative.


*reappointing Bob Becker, Deborah Hyatt, Linda Maupin and  Gerald Pattock for three-year terms on the Community Health Authority Board.


*appointing Frank Jesenek to the remainder of a three-year term on the Parks & Recreation Board that ends 12/31/2018, filling one of two empty seats.


*appointing Joyce Snow to the Planning Commission for a three-year term. Michael Barney withdrew his application for the second open seat.


Other recommendations for approvals include:

*applications for the Michigan Department of Agricultural Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program (PA-116) for Jeffrey and Stacey Morton for property in Section 2 of Hastings Township and Robin Flessner in Sections 15 and 18 in Woodland Township, recommended by Planning Director James McManus.


 *a new three-year contract for broadband internet and telecom services with MEI Telecommunications, Inc. of Delton for a one-time $5,000 payment and $1,177.75 monthly service charge. The $5,000 initial startup and hardware fee would be waived if the internet and telephone service is bundled and a contract signed within 30 days of March 13.  IT Director David Shinavier said going with MEI will result in speeds up to 10 times faster and improved stability and reliability than from the previous provider iserv.


*permission to purchase a 2018 Ford Escape for $19, 209.90 through MiDeal for the IT department, paid for by the vehicle fund, also requested by Shinavier.

The board will act on the committee of the whole’s recommendations at the March 27 regular board meeting




Freeport firefighters are flipping pancakes Saturday

The public is invited to join the Freeport firefighters at the fire station this Saturday, March 24 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for their annual spring breakfast featuring pancakes, eggs, sausage, orange juice, coffee and milk. A free will donation will be taken at the door


“The funds raised from this breakfast will go toward a new brush/grass truck we are currently building” said Fire Chief Jim Yarger. “Our previous truck has served us well for over 15 years but, it’s time to replace it.”

Smoke detector and carbon monoxide applications will be available at the breakfast.

“This has been a very successful program that makes our community safer,” Yarger said.

“To date, the Freeport Firefighters have installed over 200 smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the Freeport area.”


When an application is complete and returned, the fire department will set up a time with the homeowner to inspect the current smoke detectors in the home, replace any old detectors and install any additional detectors that are needed. Also, Freeport firefighters will host their annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Freeport Community Center Saturday, March 31 beginning at 10 a.m. for kids ages 0 to 10.


Freeport Volunteer Fire Department has 24 firefighters and Medical First Responders who cover territory in four townships; Bowne in Kent County, Campbell in Ionia County, Carlton and Irving in Barry County.




Superintendent's Platform

WBCH offers this space to area school superintendents to highlight activities in their districts. This post is from Michelle Falcon, superintendent of Maple Valley Schools.


“Beginning in mid-April, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) will administer the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP). Like last year, the M-STEP will be given online and will measure current student knowledge on Michigan’s standards in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and social studies.


“This year, based on feedback from students, parents, and educators, we have made several enhancements to M-STEP:

  • The test is now shorter for most students, who will spend no more than 3-6 hours total on 2018 state assessments.


  • The PSAT is being offered to high school students in grades 9 and 10. The PSAT prepares students for the SAT taken in grade 11.


  • High school students in grade 11 will take the SAT, which will serve as both a college entrance and the state English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessment.



  • Schools will have flexibility in scheduling the amount of time students spend in a single test session.


  • Schools will have access to preliminary student test results within a few days after testing is complete. This preliminary data is a first look for school use only until final results are available.


  • Final results should be available to schools prior to the beginning of the next school year. This will include M-STEP parent reports to be distributed by districts.


“We want your child’s experience to be relaxed, healthy, enjoyable, and stress-free. Your positive outlook and supportive manner going into these assessments will also influence your child’s experience. Content areas tested and grade levels are listed below:



Content Area


Grade 3

Mathematics, English Language Arts (ELA)


Grade 4

ELA, Mathematics


Grade 5

ELA, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science


Grade 6

ELA, Mathematics


Grade 7

ELA, Mathematics


Grade 8

ELA, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science 


Grade 11

SAT with essay – Serves as both a college entrance and


Michigan’s English language arts and mathematics assessment;



M-STEP science; M-STEP social studies; ACT WorkKeys™















M-STEP online tests anytime within a four-week time frame for each grade level. Schools will administer the subject area tests described above during the following windows:


Grades 5, 8, 11:

    April 10 – May 4

Grades 3,4,6,7:

    May 4 – May 25


Grades 9, 10 (PSAT):

April 11

Grade 11


April 10

Grade 11


April 11




Barry Central Dispatch 911 is 85 percent converted to NG-911

Stephanie Lehman, new director of Barry Central Dispatch 911, attended a recent Hastings City Council meeting to give the panel an update on the progress on the increased capabilities of the dispatch service that began in 1992.



Barry Central Dispatch is about 85 percent converted to the next generation 911 phone system, replacing the copper wire system from the 1960s with digital, and shared with Calhoun and Lenawee counties. Kalamazoo and Hillsdale counties expected to join the three counties this year.


With technology improving, “We need to respond with technology for more user friendly and responder safety,” Lehman said.


NG-911 has many advantages, including the efficiencies in 911  technology, meeting changing consumer habits and expectations, increased safety for first responders with enhanced data access, and boosting the resiliency, reliability, survivability and flexibility for the system, she said.

Improvements in transferring misrouted calls, location delivery with calls, text/multimedia, data sharing across regions and back up capabilities also will come with NG-911, Lehman said.



Lehman suggested Barry County residents sign up for Smart 911, a free service of Central Dispatch. The program has  a secure, private website with a user-provided Safety Profile with information they want first responders to know; if there are handicapped in the home, the number of children, where they sleep, how many dogs and cats should be in the house, and anything else they think would help firefighters or ambulance personnel help them.


The profile comes up only when the Smart 911 user calls 911, is relayed to emergency personal and accessible to dispatchers for one hour before it disappears.



A Rave Facility is a program similar to Smart 911, but for businesses and campuses. Information provided by users is securely stored by Rave Mobile Solutions and never sold or given to any second parties, Lehman said.



During 2017, Barry County Central Dispatch handled a total of 36,731 calls for service; 22, 360 calls for police, 1,627 for fire, 1,757 for medical first responders, 6,792 for emergency medical service and 4,195 non-emergency calls.




John Calgaro sentenced to 25 to 75 years in prison for murder

On Friday, March 16, 2018,  John Joseph Calgaro was sentenced Barry County Circuit Court to 25 to 75 years in prison for Second Degree Murder in the death of Matthew Morin.  His sentence is to run consecutively to the sentence he received for a probation violation in Van Buren County in 2016. 


Last week Calgaro pled no contest to Second Degree Murder in the death of Morin, of South Haven. Morin went missing in early July 2016.  His body was discovered by Michigan State Police in a remote area of Pine Lake Road in Barry County. 


Calgaro later admitted to running over Morin twice with his vehicle on July 5, 2016, claiming it was an accident.  However, the investigation revealed that Calgaro returned to the scene to bury Morin’s body and stole Morin’s identity, leading to a charge of Open Murder.


In exchange for Calgaro’s plea to Second Degree murder, Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt dismissed the less serious charges of Unlawfully Driving Away of a Motor Vehicle, Identity Theft and Possession of a Financial Transaction Device, as well as the Habitual Offender notice.


State House approves Calley bill to protect election integrity


Legislation sponsored by state Representatvie Julie Calley to protect the integrity of elections in Michigan was overwhelmingly approved Thursday in the Michigan House.


House Bill 5646 requires the Secretary of State to keep the list of people who are registered and qualified to vote in Michigan up to date by checking it against U.S. Social Security Administration’s death records. The legislation also requires continued participation in a multi-state program through which information is shared about the current address and registration status of voters.


“People are more concerned than ever about the security of our elections,” said Calley, of Portland. “We must do everything we can to ensure them that our qualified voter file is being held to the highest standard possible. When someone passes away or moves to another state, it’s important to update our voter rolls in a prompt and efficient manner to eliminate the possibility of voter fraud.”


While the Secretary of State currently utilizes these resources to update the qualified voter file, Calley said it is not required under current law. Her legislation ensures the practice continues in the future.


In addition to Calley’s bill, the House also approved two other bills clarifying current practices of the Secretary of State. House Bill 5644, sponsored by Rep. Tom Barrett, spells out the procedure by which absentee voters can change their mind and spoil their absentee ballot. House Bill 5669, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Miller, clarifies the current list of acceptable forms of identification for election purposes.


“Establishing these current practices as law ensures the Secretary of State and local election officials are all on the same page, and provides residents with confidence in the database of qualified voters,” said Calley, who serves as vice chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee.


House Bills 5644, 5646 and 5669 now move to the Senate for consideration.



Stephanie Lehman chosen for 911 Central Dispatch Director

The Barry County Central Dispatch Administrative Board has named Stephanie Lehman as the new director.  “After a nationwide application process, we ended up finding a great fit in our own backyard.”  Personnel Committee Chairperson, Cindy Vujea, said.


Lehman becomes the third director since the creation of Barry County Central Dispatch in 1991. “I am very honored and humbled to be given this opportunity.  As 911 technology continues to grow and evolve, I look forward to continuing with the tradition of being on the front end of these advancements" Lehman said.


Stephanie joined Barry County Central Dispatch 911 as a dispatcher in June of 2008. From 2009 through 2013 she was elected by her fellow employees to serve as the union steward. In 2013 she became a Dispatch Supervisor which included oversight of the Communications Training Officer Program. Stephanie was named Interim Director in November of 2017.


Stephanie holds a Bachelor’s of Applied Science, Occupational studies degree from Siena Heights University and an Associate’s Degree in criminal justice from Delta College. She currently serves as the secretary of the Michigan Chapter of National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and is a member of Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

Stephanie and her family reside in the Middleville area.



Private Property accident at TK Middle School

The Barry County Sheriff's Office is investigating a private property accident that occurred Thursday between a car and a student who was walking in the parking lot at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School.


Undersheriff Matt Houchlei said the student was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No other details were available.


Survey damage in Eight lower Michigan Counties including Barry

The U.S. Small Business Administration is working with Michigan State Police and local emergency managers to conduct damage assessments over the next week in eight lower michigan counties including Barry County affected by flooding from February 19th to the 21st.


This is a necessary step to receive SBA assistance, according to Michigan State Police Captain Chris Kelenski Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

If approved the Small Business Administration disaster assistance program would make low-interest loans available to eligible residences and businesses affected by heavy rainfall and snow that resulted in widespread flooding.


The SBA disaster assistance program provides low-interest loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinary and equipment.

For more additional information contact 517-284-3962.


State Police to Focus on Impaired Driving during St. Patrick's Day

During the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the Michigan State Police is reminding motorists to make safe driving choices. This Saturday, troopers will join their counterparts from across the country in Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness and Reduction Efforts).


“We encourage everyone to celebrate safely this St. Patrick’s Day,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “As always, our troopers are taking a zero tolerance approach to those who choose to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Plan ahead and designate a sober driver.”


The enforcement period begins at 12:01 a.m., on Saturday, March 17, and will end at 11:59 p.m.





House passes bill providing counties grants for veteran services

The Michigan House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday encouraging Michigan counties to establish and maintain veteran service offices through a new grant program. The bill now advances to the Senate for further consideration.


Under the legislation, co-sponsored by State Representative Julie Calley, each county with a veteran service office that satisfies pre-approved requirements will receive $25,000, plus an additional amount based on the number of veterans in the county. To continue receiving the grant, an established county veteran service office must meet benchmarks for staff performance and reporting while maintaining the previous year’s funding level.


"These services must be readily available for veterans,” said Calley, of Portland. “It’s a great way to deliver services in support of our veterans across Michigan.”


Depending on the county, a Veteran Service Officer may only be available for a few hours each month at a single location. There are 11 Michigan counties currently without a county veteran services department.



Prevent Accidental Poisoning with These Tips


National Poison Prevention Week is March 18–24. The week brings focus to the dangers of poisonings for people of all ages and is a chance to raise awareness, reduce unintentional (accidental) poisonings, and promote poison prevention.


A poison is anything, including medication, that is harmful to someone’s body if too much is eaten, breathed in, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Accidental poisoning occurs when a person taking or giving too much of a substance did not mean to cause harm.


In Barry and Eaton counties between 2009 and 2014, there were 91 deaths from accidental poisoning. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), half of all calls to poison control centers about contact with potentially harmful substances involve children under the age of 6. Adults aged 20–59 make up the next biggest group, with about a quarter of the calls.


Residents can help prevent poisonings by following the below tips. Additional important poisoning prevention safety tips can be found at


  • Lock them up and away. Keep medicine, household cleaners, chemicals (e.g., laundry pods), and other toxic products in their original containers and in a place where children can’t see or get them.
  • Read the label. Make sure to read all the warning labels on medicines, household cleaners, chemicals, and other toxic products. Some medicine isn’t safe to mix with others or with alcohol.  Never mix chemicals or household products (e.g., ammonia, bleach) together.
  • Don’t keep it if you don’t need it. Safely dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, and supplements that aren’t used or needed or that are expired. To dispose of medicines, mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and throw them away. You can also turn them in at a take-back event. Visit to see when there are take-back events in Barry and Eaton counties.
  • Know what to do. Call 911 if there is a poison emergency and the victim has collapsed or is not breathing. If the victim is awake and alert, dial 1-800-222-1222 (the nationwide poison control center phone number). Try to have the victim’s age and weight, the container of the poison, and the time and address where the poisoning occurred.




Is your child ready for Kindergarten?

The Barry Eaton District Health Department is urging parents who will be be enrolling their children in Kindergarten this year to attend Kindergarten Roundups, and to make sure kids are up to date on their immunizations. The Barry-Eaton District Health Department wants to make sure that every child is protected before entering school in the fall. 


“Immunization is the single most important way parents can protect their children from serious disease,” said Jackie Anderson, RN, BEDHD’s Immunization Coordinator. If your child has not yet received all of the immunizations required for school entry, don’t wait! Take action now to get them protected before school begins. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor, or call the health department’s immunization clinic. 


A child who is fully immunized and ready to start Kindergarten in the fall will have had these vaccinations:

  • 4 doses of DTap (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis)
  • 3 doses of Hepatitis B   
  • 2 doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)     
  • 4 doses of Polio              
  • 2 doses of Chickenpox (Varicella)


The following immunizations are highly recommended, though not required, for a child ready to start Kindergarten in the fall:

  • Influenza (flu)
  • 2 doses of Hepatitis A


M-43 @ Cloverdale Lane Open

- Per MDOT, The Barry County Road Commission says M-43 @ Cloverdale Road now has one lane open!


Why they voted the way they did on TOST, part three

This is the third of three articles on why officials in Barry and Eaton County voted the way they did to repeal, or keep, the Barry Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) time of sale or transfer (TOST) regulation.


The district health department is controlled by the Board of Health (BOH), made up of three commissioners from both Eaton and Barry counties. Barry County is represented by Commissioners Ben Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker; in Eaton County by Commissioners Blake Mulder, Jane Whitacre and Joseph Brehler.


The vote by the BOH Feb. 28 to end TOST passed with Geiger, Jackson, Parker and Mulder voting yes, Whitacre and Brehler voting no. This is Brehler’s perspective:



“We live in difficult times, despite macro-economic success; many people still face hardship and uncertainty. Michigan’s standard of living has eroded over the years with the income gap steadily growing between the very rich and the rest of us.


“People are uncertain of the future both for themselves and their children.  Cynical political groups have played on those fears in several different ways, including asserting that government is the enemy. 

“I believe that TOST is caught up in that struggle. We live in a community that is interconnected, all of us can benefit or be harmed be the decisions which we as a community make through our governmental bodies. 


“All of us must be willing to make compromise between our own self interests and that of the whole for all of us to be successful. Water is a precious and limited resource, which all of us need to survive.  Even in this country, there all areas of drought and in some places in the world, worse. 

“One of the futures national security concerns will be about those nations and peoples who have access to clean and drinkable water and those who do not.


“We as a people have not appreciated and protected this valuable resource as we should have over the years but we are better than we were even 50 years ago.  TOST is one of those efforts. 

“It is a ‘light touch’ program to protect our local ground water, rivers and lakes.  It is not the 'answer'  but it is an important piece. 


"The program has been successful and has improved our water, here locally, benefitting not only the people of Eaton County but our surrounding neighbors as well. No program like TOST will be successful if left only to voluntary compliance.  That is unfortunate but reality.


"TOST is a successful and necessary program which should be continued.” 




Why they voted the way they did on TOST, part two

The second of three articles on why officials in Barry and Eaton counties voted the way they did on the Barry Eaton District Health Department (BEDHD) TOST regulation quotes Eaton County Commissioner Jane Whitacre.


The BEDHD is controlled by the Board of Health which is made up of three commissioners from both Eaton and Barry counties. Barry County Commissioners are Ben Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker; Eaton County Commissioners are Blake Mulder, Whitacre and Joseph Brehler.  

Whitacre lists her reasons for voting to keep TOST at a Feb. 28 meeting.



  1. “It is my perspective that government should work for the people paying for it.  However, it is also the responsibility of a county commissioner to balance facts, science and the best information available to make an informed decision.
  2. “This issue has been festering for years.  It has eaten up a tremendous amount of time, energy, resources and attention. 
  3. “This issue is complex.  There are several lenses from which people are viewing it:  Personal / Property rights, cost to the property owner, public health prevention, water quality and safety and TOST's administration by the Health Department to name a few.  Individual factions formed around these various lenses that couldn't or were not willing to consider the others.
  4. “People are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts.  The use of a commonly accepted set of facts and data has never been agreed upon, hence deepening the divide.  It often feels like we live in very different realities despite other commonalities we have as people.
  5. “Commissioner Geiger commandeered a community survey about TOST that was in my opinion subjective and biased (no real scientific validity) and used it to document the public sentiment in Barry County.  Eaton County was not included nor invited to.  That should have been considered if a true understanding of public sentiment was to be objectively considered.
  6. “At the March 1 hearing in Charlotte, some of the members of the BEDHD promised that when TOST is gone, BEDHE will invent another, better program to safeguard our people and water.  Prevention was the goal of health department in TOST.  Not inspecting watersheds or farms or environmental clean up.  The health department will be reducing staffing and its budget when TOST is gone.  There's no real capacity nor responsibility for the health department to start something new to replace it now.  That's not happening.
  7. “The Barry Eaton District Health Department did not create TOST to generate revenue or to control the public.  Elected officials on community boards voted to approve the implementation of a TOST program for Barry and Eaton counties for public health prevention reasons.  Contaminated water can kill people.  It is serious stuff.  Accusing and vilifying the staff of BEDHD is inappropriate and undeserving.    
  8. “I feel strongly that my vote against the repeal of TOST reflects the perspective of my constituents in suburban Eaton County. But I also care about rural Eaton County and Barry County.  We share the same region, state, nation and planet.  We are all steward of God's green Earth, not just our own backyards. 

“I wish we could have found more common ground because I believe we have a lot more in common as individuals and families than we do differences.  And I appreciate the passion and effort of everyone involved in this long, drawn out process, but I don't want feces in our drinking water.”



Barry County votes to repeal TOST; Eaton County to vote March 21

Barry County Commissioners today voted to repeal TOST by a unanimous vote. Commissioner David Jackson was absent. One step remains if the regulation is to be rescinded, a vote to repeal by the Eaton County Board of Commissioners on March 21.


The controversial Barry Eaton District Health Department requirement mandates inspection of on-site water and sewer systems in both counties, and repair or replacement if they are found to be failing before the sale of property can be finalized.


The Barry Eaton District Health Department is controlled by the Board of Health (BOH) which is made up of three commissioners from each county. Commissioners Ben Geiger, David Jackson and Dan Parker are from Barry; Commissioners Blake Mulder, Jane Whitacre and Joseph Brehler represent Eaton.


In this article, the first of three parts on why officials voted the way they did, Jackson spelled out his reasoning at a Feb. 28 public hearing by the (BOH) before voting to start the process to end the 10-year-old rule. The other two parts of the series are the opinions of BOH members Whitacre and Brehler, who voted to keep the regulation. //



“I sincerely appreciate everyone who took the time to attend tonight’s meeting and voice their thoughts on the Time of Sale regulation.  When our citizens participate in government, everyone wins. Thank you.


“What I hope everyone here tonight can realize is that we are all on the same side.  Every member of the board of health in both Barry & Eaton counties all want clean safe water for drinking and recreation.  We all want wells that are safe for our families and septic systems that work property and don’t pollute our lakes and streams. We all want programs and policies that protect our environment.


“What many in attendance don’t realize is that for as long as the T.O.S.T. regulation has been enacted (10 years), there has been a constant flow of complaints and criticism about the expense, the heavy handedness, the delay in property sales, and the issue of your health department not allowing you to sell your property without their permission, until you pass a well and septic inspection.


“Our health department, which has always been a great customer service organization, took on the role of an enforcement agency, seeming to many to now be working against the very citizens they work so hard to protect.


“The many great things our health department does has been overshadowed by one program. We have tried to fix TOST, we have tried to move TOST to an optional or voluntary program, but TOST is a regulation.

“Regulations are not optional, just like speed limits are not suggestions, they are laws.  After years of ongoing review and debate, it is clear to me that TOST has become a block to innovative, forward thinking ideas to protect our environment. 


“Although TOST is a way to evaluate onsite water and septic infrastructure, it is perhaps the slowest possible method in doing so. 

“With the limited number of homes that sell each year in Barry & Eaton counties, we are looking at a multi-generational evaluation process that in reality is a turtle for environmental protection.  I believe we can do better.


“My vote tonight to repeal the TOST regulation is not a vote against our environment or against clean water.  It’s a vote to close one chapter and start a new one. 

“It’s a vote to start again with clear, forward thinking ideas and a fresh look at some of the best program on a state and national basis for protecting our water resources. 


“We need program & policies that respect both the pocket books and the property rights of our citizens.  We now live in an era where inspections are being driven by banks, realtors and home buyers, not by the health department.


“It’s rare that a bank or realtor would allow a client to buy a property without an inspection. We have trained, certified professional evaluators for onsite well & septic inspections available to all citizens of Barry & Eaton counties. 


“I believe we can build a better mouse trap, but it’s nearly impossible to do so when all the focus remains on the current mouse trap called TOST. 

“Again, we want the same things clean water, safe water, protections of our environment. I believe every commissioner on this board will continue to work towards that goal.

Thank you again for your well thought out comments regarding the TOST regulation.”












Disaster Declaration

Governor Rick Snyder on Monday issued a disaster declaration for 17 Michigan Counties including Barry County as a result of the recent melting snow and heavy rains. The declaration made state resources available to those areas, including grants of up to $100,000 for reimbursement of local response costs to the flooding that occurred February 19th through the 21st. Other Counties in the disaster declaration included Allegan, Arenac, Berrien, Cass, Clare, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mecosta, Newaygo, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Ottawa, and St. Joseph. Grand Rapids and Lansing were also included in the declaration.


Barry County man pleads no contest to murder charge

John Joseph Calgaro, who's trial for Open Murder was to begin today (Mon),  pled no contest to Second Degree Murder in Barry County Circuit Court on Friday, March 9th in connection with the death of Matthew Morin of South Haven.  Morin went missing in early July 2016.  His body was discovered by Michigan State Police in a remote area of Pine Lake Road in Barry County. 


Calgaro later admitted to running over Morin twice with his vehicle on July 5, 2016, claiming it was an accident.  However, the investigation revealed that Calgaro returned to the scene to bury Morin’s body and stole Morin’s identity, leading to the charge of Open Murder.


Second Degree Murder carries a maximum of life in prison or any term of years.  In exchange for Calgaro’s plea to Second Degree murder, the Prosecution will dismiss the less serious charges of Unlawfully Driving Away of a Motor Vehicle, Identity Theft and Possession of a Financial Transaction Device, as well as the Habitual Offender notice.


Calgaro will be sentenced Friday March 16, 2018 at 1:30pm in Barry County Circuit Court. 



Hastings Boy Scout meets Hastings City Council

Christian Owen of Hastings, a Boy Scout working toward his Citizenship in the Community Badge, attended a recent Hastings City Council meeting and was introduced to the council and audience by Mayor David Tossava.


Christian, 12, is working toward the 13 of 21 badges that are required for an Eagle Scout ranking. The other eight badges needed to qualify for the Boy Scout’s highest honor are optional choices.


Darrick and Darcie Owen’s son, a member of Hastings Troop 175, has already met with Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, worked in a soup kitchen and helped on a project at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. “He’s enjoyed his community service,” mom said.


At the same time Christian is earning his Citizenship in the Community Badge by attending a civic meeting, he was also earning Environmental Sciences and Family Life badges.

“Next week, he will meet with Dr. Tom Hoffman and get his Physical Fitness Badge,” dad said, making a total of 9 of the 13 required. This summer at Scout camp in early July at Clare, Christian will work on the Citizenship in the Nation Badge, another step toward becoming an Eagle Scout.


Dad said he signed up as a Boy Scout as a youth, but with wrestling, football, band and driving distances, it didn’t work out, so he’s happy to see Christian involved in Scouting and, ”help him along. Sometimes, kids can pick up where you left off. We’re both very proud of him.”


Alexia, 10, and Drew, 7, round out the Scout-oriented Owen family. Alexia is a Girl Scout, Darcie is a Girl Scout Leader of 9-11 year olds in Troop 80517 and dad volunteers at Scout campouts.


Hopefully in the future, Christian can attend a National Scout Jamboree with thousands of other Boy Scouts. Usually held every four years and organized by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the first national jamboree was held in Washington, D.C. for ten days in July 1937 and attended by 25,000 Scouts. Originally scheduled in 1935 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Scouting, it was postponed due to a polio outbreak.


Photo: Christian Owen, Boy Scout of Troop 175, is welcomed to a Hastings City Council meeting by Mayor David Tossava.



Three fatalities, several more injured in Eaton County crash

The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a Fatal Accident on west bound I-496 between Waverly and Snow Road Tuesday evening.  Three cars were involved in the crash resulting in nine people being taken to area hospitals with numerous injuries.  Two passengers were deceased upon the arrival of the deputies, a third passenger succumbed to their injuries at the hospital.  


It is unknown if alcohol was a factor in the crash, but seatbelts were not utilized by all occupants.  Police say the accident was not weather related.   


The crash occurred after a vehicle was attempting to assist a disabled vehicle on the side of the expressway and pulled back into the lanes of traffic and was struck by oncoming traffic.


The three victims that suffered fatal injuries are:

          Kelly McNamara, 59 years old from Lansing

          Linda Foote, 66 years old from Lansing

          Kevin Trusty, 57 years old from Lansing


The accident remains under investigation by the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Unit. 


Anyone with information concerning the crash is requested to contact Det. Jim Maltby or Det. Rick Buxton at 517-323-8492.



Wheel theft at Ionia car dealership

The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office, working in conjunction with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, apprehended a male suspect in a recent rash of wheel thefts from dealerships. 


Ionia County Deputies got tipped off that the subject that was suspected of multiple wheel thefts in Kent County was operating in Ionia County.  Deputies responded to Young’s Chevrolet of Ionia early Wednesday morning to find a 2018 Chevy Tahoe with the wheels removed. 


Deputies stopped the pickup truck of the suspect and found the stolen wheels in the bed of the truck.  He was arrested and taken to the Kent County Jail awaiting charges and arraignment.




Time Change This Sunday

Don't forget to set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday night. Daylight savings time officially begins at 2:00 AM this Sunday March 11th.


Barry County Tobacco Reduction Coalition to observe Kick Butts Day 2018

The 22nd annual Kick Butts Day, a day of national activism, will be held this year on March 21st. Organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Kick Butts Day encourages and empowers youth to stand up, speak out, and seize control against Big Tobacco.


Each year, 10,300 Michigan children become regular, daily smokers, of whom one-third will die prematurely because of their addiction, according to Lauren Cibor, Community Health Promotion Specialist for the Barry Easton District Health Department.


In honor of Kick Butts Day, the Barry County Tobacco Reduction Coalition is seeking participation from Barry County youth to participate in a one day after-school project the week of March 21 to discourage youth from starting tobacco use. Youth will determine what project they would like to engage in.


For more information and to participate, youth may contact Lauren Cibor at the Barry Eaton District Health Department. 


Information about the national initiative can be found at:


Allegan County names new Prosecuting Attorney

Chief Circuit Judge Margaret Zuzich Bakker Tuesday announced the appointment of Myrene Koch as the new Prosecuting Attorney for Allegan County.
Koch has served as an assistant prosecutor since July of 2002 and has been the Chief Assistant Prosecutor in the office since June of 2017.  She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Cooley Law School.
Koch will begin her duties as Prosecutor effective March 19, 2018. The vacancy was created when current prosecutor, Roberts Kengis, was appointed to the Circuit Bench by Governor Snyder.


Hastings Area Schools Resume Classes After Threat

Hastings Area Schools students are back at school after classes were cancelled on Monday due to a threat made to the high school.


Dr. Carrie Duits, Superintendent of the Hastings Area School System, thanked parents, students, and staff for their understanding as the school threat was investigated.


"We had a bomb threat at our high school for the specific date of March 5. To investigate this threat, we worked collaboratively with the Hastings City Police, Michigan State Police, Michigan State Police Canine Unit, and the FBI. The bomb threat has been proven not credible" Duits said. "The canine unit searched the building with three explosive-trained dogs from the Michigan State Police. We are currently working with law enforcement, who have developed a person of interest regarding this threat. We will continue to take every precaution necessary while working collaboratively with law enforcement agencies regarding any safety concerns."



Barry County Updated Road Closures

 Barry County Road Commission's updated Road Closures

The following roads are still closed.

Dowling Road between Banfield and Gurd.

Charlton Park Road between M-43 and Jordan.

River Road between Mathison and Charlton Park.

M-43 @ Cloverdale Road until further notice per MDOT.



**Lakewood Area Choral Society Seeking New Members

Did you sing in high school or college?  Do you miss the thrill of singing with a large group?  Now is the time to join the Lakewood Area Choral Society in it's 33rd season. The choir is seeking new altos, tenors and basses.  Membership is open to anyone with choral experience who loves to sing.  Monday March 12th, prospective new members may attend a Get To Know Us, No-Committment Choir Rehearsal at 7:00p.m. at Lakewood High.  For Further information visit or call 269-967-7246 or email Joanie Oster at


Hastings Area Schools closed Monday, March 5th

All Hastings Area Schools are closed Monday, March 5th.  The CERC and daycare are also closed.  Assistant Superintendent Matt Goebel told WBCH that the schools are working with several law enforcement agencies and made the decision as a safety precaution.  The school system notified parents of the closing after an unspecified threat to Hastings High School was received over the weekend. 


Barry County elected officials will get raises in 2019-20

Barry County Commissioner and Chair Ben Geiger Tuesday read the determination of the Barry County Elected Officers Compensation Commission listing the raises they decided elected officials of the county, excluding judges, would receive in 2019 and 2020.


Theresa Enrietti, chair of the pay commission, wrote that the panel valued the work of elected officials and, believed “maintaining adequate and competitive salaries is vital to providing quality public service,” and they “also feel a strong responsibility to the citizens and taxpayers of Barry County.”


Commissioners: $11,101 in 2019 and $12,607 in 2020.


Commission chair: $12,106 in 2019 and $13,607 in 2020.


Sheriff: $90,616 in 2019; $92,428 in 2020.


Drain Commissioner: $64,142.26 in 2019 and $67,870 in 2020.


Treasurer: $66,196.37 in 2019 and $71,002 in 2020.


Surveyor: $9,484.38 in 2019 and $10, 205 in 2020.


Prosecutor: $101,203.52 in 2019 and $103,227.59 in 2020.


Clerk: $66,624.15 in 2019 and $67,956.63 in 2020.


Register of Deeds: $66,624.15 in 2019 and $67,956.63 in 2020.


Enrietti said in setting raises, they tried to ensure equality between county officials with similar jobs and also with the officials from other counties that they were compared to. Because it has the authority to overturn a compensation board’s action by a two-thirds vote, the final decision on any decisions is a county board responsibility.


The county board only considers the compensation commission actions upon a motion to reject.

If the county board takes no action, the pay board’s decision takes effect with the beginning of the next odd-numbered year. If the county commission rejects the action, the previous compensation remains in effect. The county board did not move to reject, so the listed salary schedule will go into effect.


Compensation commission members are appointed by the county commission for four-year-terms and meet only in even numbered years.





NOTICE: American Red Cross to provide flood clean-up kits

The American Red Cross has completed its assessment of flood damage.


On Monday, March 5 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., they will be at the Barry County Central Dispatch Community Room, 2600 Nashville Rd, Hastings, providing flood clean up kits.


They will also assist those families that its damage assessment crews have identified as having minor to major damage.


Questions?  Please call the American Red Cross at 616-456-8661.





BEDHD Board of Health votes 4-2 to repeal TOST

A divisive regulation mandating inspection of on-site wells and septic systems and repair or replacement of any system deemed failing before closing on the sale of property in two counties moved one step closer to repeal Wednesday.


The controversial Barry Eaton District Health Department’s 10-year-old time of sale of transfer regulation, or TOST, was the subject of a public hearing at the Board of Health meeting before the members voted 4-2 to repeal it. The board is made up of three Barry County Commissioners and three Eaton County Commissioners.


Barry commissioners Ben Geiger, Dan Parker and David Jackson, and Eaton Commissioner Blake Mulder voted for repeal; Eaton Commissioners Jane Whitacre and Joseph Brehler voted against repeal. About 70 people attended the meeting, with speakers almost evenly divided pro and con, Geiger said.


The next step in the process of rescinding the regulation is consideration by both county commissions. If both panels concur with the Board of Health, the regulation will be repealed.

Eaton County has tentatively set its meeting date on March 21.


“We will have some procedural issues at the committee of the whole meeting on March 6,” Geiger said, “but, the review of the agreement on March 13 will be Barry County’s conclusion of the agreement. We have worked through the process to the conclusion on to repeal on the 13th.


“TOST has done a lot of good in protecting public health, but it also seriously polarized our communities. We need a process that brings us together on public health and in clean water; we need a new policy that protects the environment and the rights of home owners,” Geiger said.//


In the Barry County Commision meeting on Tuesday, commissioners approved:

* A MDEQ Brownfield Grant application for Stickmann Baeckerie in Yankee Springs

* A one-time expenditure of $107,657.25 to replace several roofs for Charlton Park buildings.

* Appointment of Carrie Larabee to a three-year-term on the Community Corrections Advisory Board.

* A Risk Avoidance Program Grant application and funding for court security improvement.

* A resolution to allow the County Drain Commission exceed its $10,000 a year spending limit on maintenance of a dam at Upper Crooked Lake.

* The Renewal of CBIZ Retirement Plan Services for $11,000 to complete the 2017 actuarial valuation of other post-employment benefits for the county.

* A Thornapple Parks & Recreation Commission request to reappoint Catherine Getty to the Barry County Parks & Recreation Board for a three-year term.



Yankee Springs Inn historic marker to be rededicated

On May 15, 1966 the Yankee Springs Inn historic marker was dedicated. Then it was stolen, returned, lost and found again.  On April 7, it will be rededicated at 11 a.m. on the North Country Trail trailhead on South Yankee Springs Road, just south of Gun Lake Road.


A hike on the old stagecoach road (Norris Road) led by North Country trail leaders will leave from the trailhead at 9 a.m.  Following the rededication, there will be a reception in the main lodge at Long Lake Recreational Center, 10370 Gun Lake Road.


Author Carolyn Strite will be selling and signing her book, “Yankee Springs Stagecoach Inn.” Artist Gus Swenson will have copies of his stagecoach paintings and greeting cards for sale and photos and memorabilia will be on display.


The event is a cooperative effort of Barry County Historic Society, Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail, Gun Lake Women’s Club, Yankee Springs State Park, Long Lake Recreational Center and Yankee Springs Township. Please join us in keeping history alive.


Barry ISD Regional Spelling Bee 2018 results told

Matthew Pattok, an eighth grade student at Hastings Middle School, won the Barry ISD Regional Spelling Bee Tuesday evening and qualified for the Greater Grand Rapids Spelling Bee to be held March 27, at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.


Pattok will compete against students from all over West Michigan for the honor of spelling at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C. He bested 17 other competitors, spelling "sonata" and "retrospective" to win the night. Runner up was Cayden Snow, also from Hastings Middle School, who fell on "pueblo.”


How would you have done? Other words that students misspelled included: workmanship, humble, macaroni, stethoscope, and bungalow. Words missed in vocabulary rounds included: sable, animosity, dungaree, nosh, and innate.


Rich Franklin, Barry ISD superintendent, said that the evening was a great success and a chance for the students involved to show off a little of their academic prowess. "Each student up on that stage is supported by parents, grandparents, teachers, and others in the audience who are so proud that they made it this far, and so glad they're not up here spelling, themselves!" Franklin said.


Other competitors were Jessica Halder and Dale Thompson from Barry County Christian School; Isabella Morey, Tucker Patrick-Swinehart, Allison Shadoff, Madelynn Palmer, Eric Belka, Alekzander Waller, and Elijah Austin from Delton Kellogg Middle School; Connor Lindsey, Keegan Lindsey, Phoebe Birchfield, Lily Comensoli, and Hannah Smith from Hastings Middle School; and Anika Bourassa and Alex Flikkema from Saint Rose of Lima School.


Qualifying but not competing were Stephanie Dunn from Hastings Middle School and Levi Garrett from Delton Kellogg Middle School.


Mary Collier was the pronouncer for the bee once again this year. Judges were Cheryl Bower, Dr. Bob Becker, and Dee Defields. Carol VanDenBerg and Dawn Weeks served as audience advocates and Deb Hatfield was the registrar.


Franklin thanked Delton Kellogg Schools for hosting, especially Mike Wertman for setup and tech support, and Denice Cook for arranging the site. The bee was held in the auditorium/large group instruction room at Delton Kellogg High School.



Kayakers rescued from extreme current in flooding Kalamazoo River

The Kalamazoo River was high and fast Tuesday when a pair of kayaks ran into trouble. An unidentified woman went into the rushing water, and her male companion went in to help her.

The Plainwell Department of Public Safety was dispatched at 4 p.m. yesterday to rescue both of them; they called in the Cooper Township Fire Department.


Bill Bomar, director of the Plainwell Public Safety Department, said the current was too extreme for their small, inflatable boat and the sheriff’s office boats are still winterized and not available, so they called Yankee Springs Township Fire Department to bring their fire/rescue boat.


 “They responded in a timely manner and did a good job,” Bomar said.

The couple had made it to one of three small islands in the river which creates its own turbulence.

“They were extremely lucky. They had a cell phone, otherwise they would have been left screaming for help,” he said.


The couple was checked by waiting ambulance personnel; the woman had a laceration that was treated but other than that, they were fine, Bomar said.



Suspect arrested in false bomb threat at Target store

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office reports a false bomb threat at the Target store on Market Place Drive in Gaines Township last November was made by a woman to cover up retail fraud she was committing.


A phone call received by Target employees said they had eight minutes to evacuate the building before a bomb would blow up. Target and the adjacent store, Staples, were evacuated. Kent County Sheriff’s deputies and Michigan State Police conducted a search of the buildings and did not locate any suspicious packages.


Investigators determined where the phone call originated and suspect Victoria Smith confessed to making the bomb threat in order to divert attention from her retail fraud.  Smith, charged with making a false report of a bomb threat is in custody at the Kent County Correctional Facility being held on a $10,000 bond.


Barry County Sheriff's Dive Team new equipment is more efficient, safer for divers

The Barry County Sheriff’s Office has new diving equipment for its Dive Team that improves safety and efficiency for the deputies using it in their duties. Deputy Steve Lehman and Lt. Pete Nevins recently demonstrated the new gear for Barry County Commissioners.


Before the new gear, communication between diver and on shore personnel  was a series of different tugs on a rope tied to the diver. Now, the diver is wired for voice communication at all times with a rope still attached for backup, Lehman said. A fully-suited deputy is stationed on shore for quick response, it needed.


“Communicating is very important. “It’s reassuring for divers to hear a voice,” Nevins said. With the communication system, the diver has about 200 feet of leeway.

The more spacious outfits are light years ahead of the former simple face mask, part of a completely enclosed system that can safely be worn when gas or other chemicals are in the water.

“We are totally encapsulated from head to toe,” Lehman said. “We don’t get wet.”


Deputies are the only personnel using the equipment; nine full sets are assigned to dive team deputies, led by Sgt. Ryan Argo. An extra set is for an anticipated 10th member of the dive team.

An updated air tank, resembling turtle’s back, can be inflated or deflated by the diver and can carry extra weights for ballast. A new trailer for dive equipment means the divers can arrive on scene, snap on the mask, and go, shaving 15 minutes off the getting ready time.


They have been practicing in local lakes and in the pool at the Hastings High School. The new equipment is compatible with other counties diving gear, an asset in joint operations.  It also increases their ability to be proactive in local lakes and pools, Sheriff Dar Leaf said. “It’s a huge step up for our divers during their work and also for their safety.”


One thing new equipment can’t solve is the visibility. “We sink to the bottom, so we very seldom have clear visibility,” Lehman noted. With underwater flashlights, they can see from inches to two feet. “It’s going to be black anyway, we usually go by feel,” he said.


Lehman said the old equipment let divers stay underwater about 22 minutes. Training with the new equipment, he was under for 58 minutes one time and 41 minute another. It also depends on the depth of the water the diver is working in.


The cost for the upgrade was $5,200, with the sheriff’s office paying half, a grant from the Federal Emergency Management’s Fifth District.





U. S. Supreme Court ends lawsuit against Gun Lake Tribe

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday affirmed the D.C. Circuit Court’s dismissal of he lawsuit  Patchak v. Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, et al., against the Gun Lake Tribe on the grounds that an act of Congress mandated the dismissal of the case.


“This decision ends a decades-long struggle, and ensures the tribe can carry on our elders’ vision for growth and self-sufficiency,” said Scott Sprague, chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe. “We are thankful the Supreme Court upheld the many lower court decisions in favor of the tribe.  This is a significant development for not only the tribe, but also all of Indian Country,”


In 2005, the tribe petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to place a parcel of land in southwestern Michigan into trust for the tribe for the purposes of building a casino. The secretary agreed, and the tribe opened a casino there in 2011. A nearby landowner filed a lawsuit challenging the secretary’s decision on statutory grounds.


Following several years of litigation, including a previous trip to the Supreme Court, the district court eventually dismissed the landowner’s suit on the ground that a 2014 act passed by congress, the Gun Lake Act, stripped the court of jurisdiction to hear the case; the D.C. Circuit upheld that decision.


In Tuesday’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal by a 6-3 vote. A four-Justice plurality held that the Gun Lake Act did not violate Article III of the constitution, and two justices concurred in the judgment on the ground that the act validly reinstated sovereign immunity from suit.


Beyond resolving an important issue of constitutional law, today’s decision brings this long-running lawsuit to an end—thereby providing the tribe certainty and security in its crucial land-development efforts.


A team from Akin Gump briefed and argued the case on behalf of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians whose property was at the center of the dispute. The Akin Gump team representing the tribe in this case was led by Supreme Court and appellate practice co-head Pratik Shah, and included litigation partner James Tysse and associate G. Michael Parsons.


Hastings to raze former Moose building, market Michigan Avenue site

Hastings City Manager Jeff Mansfield told the City Council in a memo that Smith Equities, who had presented a plan to develop the former Moose Building on South Michigan Avenue into retail business and apartments, is no longer interested in the project.

Another developer who was initially interested in rehabilitating the building is now committed to other projects, Mansfield said Monday.


“The building is not salvageable; it appears to be at the end of its life,” he said. The DDA has agreed to pay for the demolition of the building, with the request they be reimbursed if the city sells the site for development, he said.


With the council’s enthusiastic approval to demolish the building, Mansfield will develop a plan for interim use for the site for the council to approve.

When they have the final cost of demolition, including disposal of environmentally sensitive materials, if there are any, they will recommend funding for the work, he said.


The site will likely be grass along Michigan Avenue and the extension of City Lot #8 on the west side of the site. There are developers still interested in the site, but not the building. “We believe the site will be more attractive for redevelopment after the building is demolished.”


Despite strenuous objections from Councilwoman Brenda McNabb-Stange that the agreement with the city was vague and lacked many details and specifics, the Hastings Rotary and Kiwanis clubs were approved to run a concession stand for the 2018 Thornapple Plaza season and to serve alcohol at 24 entertainment events.

The agreement is the same as last year Mansfield said, “It was a handshake agreement and worked well,” he said.


David Solmes, representing the Rotary, said he would be happy to work with the city to address any conflicts with other events, and the specific dates and events when they get the 2018 season schedule.


Mayor Exchange Day will be April 23, when Frankenmuth officials visit the city with Hastings returning the visit on May 16.


The City of Frankenmuth, in Frankenmuth Township, Saginaw County, has a population of 5,131. Bordered by the Cass River, it is noted for its Bavarian-style architecture, an Octoberfest and Bronners Christmas Store, billed as the World’s Largest Christmas Store. It has a council/manager form of government.


Also approved were the Hastings Rotary Whiffle Ball tournament/fundraiser at Fish Hatchery Park on June 2; FlexFab’s 10th annual 5K run/walk on June 23 and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Tyden Park on Aug. 3 and 4.



Free Succession Planning Workshop for Business owners

The Barry County Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Michigan and local Chamber members Longstreet Elder Law and Principal Financial to bring you a two-part Succession Planning workshop, with Part 1 on February 28th and Part 2 on March 22nd.

Effective succession planning is essential to ensure that your business is prepared to continue on when you want to retire or if something bad happens that prevents you from continuing to run the business. There are many business and legal concerns to address, and these workshops will give you the foundation and tools to make this important future planning a reality for your business!

We invite you to join us for this FREE two-part, educational seminar focusing on the future of your business.  Attendees will learn:
  • How to work ON your business, not IN your business     
  • What to do when you want to retire
  • How to protect your business in case of death or serious injury
  • How to retain key employees & incenting that retention
  • How to plan in a smart way to avoid decisions made in CRISIS—and how to protect that plan
  • What is the difference between business planning and estate planning
Session 1:  Introduction to Succession Planning & Laying the Foundation for Succession Planning
Session 2:  In-depth Succession Planning Discussion
Both sessions will take place from 8:30-9:00am in the Hastings Public Library Community Room.  Continental Breakfast will be provided at both sessions!
Who Should Attend:
  • Small Business Owners such as retailers and service companies
  • Agriculture
  • Light Manufacturing
  • Professionals such as dentists and accountants
FREE to attend; registration required!  Call 269-945-2454 or register online at
This workshop is proudly brought to you by the Barry County Chamber of  Commerce, in partnership with SBDC, Principal Financial Group, and Longstreet Elder Law & Estate Planning.
Travis Alden, President, (269) 945-2454


Barry County 56B District Court offers amnesty program

Are you a Barry County resident?

Do you have an outstanding warrant or fines in Barry County District Court that you haven’t paid?

Are you looking over your shoulder, but don’t dare talk to anyone about it?

Would you like to clear it up, but don’t know how?


Here’s the thing: The Barry County Trial Court is offering amnesty to Barry County residents for the traffic and criminal division of 56B District Court from Thursday, March 1 through Friday, April 13.

If you have late fees, outstanding bench warrants for failing to appear or failing to comply with financial obligations on traffic or criminal cases, you can come to court without fear of being arrested.

Go to 56B District Court, second floor in the Courts & Law Building at 206 West Court Street in Hastings between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. during the amnesty period to make final payments in full on any outstanding balances or meet with a financial specialist.  When you make the final payment, the court will waive the late fees, and/or recall bench warrants and dismiss any future contempt dates or charges for those cases and you will be free to go.


If you have any problem about going in person, just call, said District Court Judge Michael Schipper. “We want to clear up our backlog of cases and give our customers a break. We’ll work with you.

“I’ll try something new. If a program works, we’ll keep it; if it needs tweaking we’ll do that. If it doesn’t work, we won’t keep doing it.”


Interestingly, Schipper said some people may have warrants out on them and not know it. For example, if you paid a traffic fine late, it may have late charges added. If they are not paid, a warrant will eventually be issued, and if a driver get stopped for anything, like a light out, the warrant will come up when officer checks your license status.


There are important notes about the amnesty:

* The program is available to both traffic and misdemeanor case types.

* Payment may be made by cash, credit card, cashier’s check or money order.

* The program applies to Barry County residents only and is for traffic and criminal cases only.


However, if an individual has outstanding warrants or criminal charges in another county or state or for another matter in Barry County, he or she may be taken into custody as a result.


For questions on the program or outstanding balances, call district court at 269-495-1404.

For information on outstanding child support or Friend of the Court business, call 269-945-1283.




2018 Leadership Barry County Coat Drive is on

Drop off your new or gently used coats on Feb. 24 at Spectrum Health Wellness Center from 9 a.m. to noon or on Feb. 25 at Green Street Church from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.


Other drop off locations for coats from now until March 8 include the Trumble Agency, Middleville; Union Bank, Hastings; Hastings High School,  Hastings;  Barry County Chamber of Commerce, Hastings; Flexfab Horizons, LLC (employees only), Hastings  and the Barry Community Foundation, Hastings.


Proceeds will benefit Secondhand Corners free Coat Closet.


Superintendent's Platform

WBCH provides this space to superintendents of area schools to highlight activities in their districts. This post is from Superintend Carrie Duits of the Hastings Area School System.


“Our hearts break for the family, friends, students, and community impacted by the recent

tragedy in Florida. The wounds of all those in our country who have suffered such violent acts in

the past have opened once again; we are a nation in mourning. All of us are seeking answers to school violence and finding new ways to protect our students.


Hastings Area School System works hard to provide safeguards for our students and staff. We are very grateful to the community for passing the 2015 bond that has allowed us to install several improvements and provide additional security in our schools.

Our architects presented us with school security research as we started designing our new

Middle School addition.


A critical feature has been the addition of our secure entrances. Visitors are channeled, through a secured, single point of entry. New windows have provided office staff with a clear visual of anyone entering or exiting the schools. In addition to increased visibility, the entrances are equipped with an intercom and a camera to enable communication between secretaries and visitors prior to allowing visitors access to the building.


Our secure entrances are a beginning, but only one step in the measures we are taking to

better protect our students. We also added lockdown “boots” throughout each building. As we

complete newly remodeled areas, we will assess our buildings again for additional lockdown



We are also adding more cameras at the secondary level, and our fire alarm system has

been, completely replaced and upgraded. Throughout the year students and staff participate in a variety of drills to ensure we are prepared, in the event of an emergency. The Hastings Area School System partners with the Hastings Police Department for drills and security. Please know that we continue to work hard in our efforts to keep our buildings safe and secure for the students of Hastings.


On March 8, 2018, Hastings Area Schools will hold a community forum to gather input on

making our schools more safe and secure. Several needs have been determined, by the Board

of Education Property and Finance Committees.


The meeting is open to the public and will be held at 6:30 pm at the Hastings Middle School. To begin, community members will be invited to view areas of the new Middle School addition and then provide input for next steps in making our district safer and more secure for all.”



Irving Road Bridge, McCann to West State Closed

The Barry County Road Commission has closed the Irving Road Bridge (at Loop Road) and will close McCann Road from Irving to West State Road as precautionary measures.  BCRC Director Brad Lamberg asks motorists to avoid the area.


Spillway at Irving breached, but not designated an emergency

Barry County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Yarger said Friday that the spillway leading to the hydroelectric plant in Irving Township was breached by the rising Thornapple River, but since they still have some control of the water, it is not classified as an emergency.


The spillway, about 100 feet south of the Irving Dam, has three large openings to carry water but recent rains lifted the river level over the spillway, spreading water into the neighborhood and eating away the earthen part of the spillway, Yarger said.


The department’s new RAVE mass alert emergency notification system was activated to let the 22 subscribers know of the situation. “It worked well. After we pushed the alert we got phone calls asking for more information.”


“It looks like it crested at the McKeown Bridge about midnight, and it crested in Middleville, too. At this time we don’t anticipate it getting any worse,” Yarger said. Years ago engineers told Yarger if the Irving Dam itself failed, it would likely not be an emergency because the uninhabited low lying area below it could handle it.



Red Cross shelter opened in Barry County

The American Red Cross is operaing an emeregency shelter at the Barry County Commission on Aging building located at 320 West Woodlawn Avenue in Hastings.


Jim Yarger of Barry County Emergency Management said the shelter was opened Thursday night for anyone who needs a place to stay due to the widespread flooding.


Barry County to overhaul process of citizen appointments to its boards

In an effort to attract more volunteers to serve on boards of various Barry County committees, boards and authorities, Barry County Commissioner Ben Geiger, who is also chair, Tuesday presented a plan called the 2018 Appointments Reform Plan.


Geiger discussed five areas and gave suggestions for future action in those areas in the year-long incentive. The county has 35 total boards, with 26 requiring citizen appointments, with 198 appointments of 80 citizens at large and 78 qualified citizens at large.


Fewer applications are being submitted and some on boards resign or do not reapply, resulting in a 16 percent vacancy rate, he said. To improve those figures, Geiger proposed training for new board members, working closer with the commission and developing a culture of professionalism to avoid personal conflicts on boards.


The training will include learning about teamwork and accountability and understanding the fundamentals of being on a board. Instead of word of mouth and advertising in the newspaper as it is now, in the future, Geiger plans marketing and community engagement to find more qualified applicants, and work on issues related on chronic vacancies.


Geiger said there are four parts to his plan; outreach and recruitment, training, organizational improvements, and assessment. In the first phase of the new structure of finding and appointing citizens to county boards, each commissioner will volunteer to work in one of three areas; scouting, writing or researching.

Later phases will be rolled out in phase two from April through July and phase three from August through December.


“This won’t be an overnight project,” Geiger said. “The project can’t be delegated to someone else. It requires leadership from the commissioners." The mission of the plan is to enhance our citizen boards to provide community and professional development.




Ionia County in local state of emergency as of 10:10 a.m. Feb. 22

After an initial survey and  monitoring the effects of flooding throughout Ionia County, the Ionia County Office of Emergency Management requested the Ionia County Board of Commissioners to declare a local state of emergency. The commission’s Vice Chair James Banks declared the county in a state of emergency as of Feb. 22 at 10:10 a.m.


A local state of emergency is used to notify state officials that the county is experiencing an incident that is taxing the county’s resources.  The declaration is the first step in tracking activities and damage in case the need should arise to ask for state or federal assistance.


Currently Ionia County is handling the incident with local resources and will request assistance from the state or federal levels of government if it is needed.



Barrry County Sheriff: Don't try going around barricades

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf is cautioning area motorists not to try to drive around barricades in the roadways.


Barricades are in place around the county where water from the recent rains has risen over a road and will remain there until it is safe for traffic.


“We’ve been pulling cars out of the water for the better part of today (Thursday) ,” he said. “You can’t tell how much of the road is gone, or how deep it is. And, you don’t want to end up with a car full of water. Just don’t go around barricades.”


Barry County Road Closures

The following roads are currently closed due to flooding.

Marshall Road between Lawrence and Maple Grove

Saddlebag Lake Road between Carlton Center and M-66

East State Road between M-66 and Wellman

Cox Road between Clark and Curtis.

Barger Road between Thornapple Lake and Center

Bowler Road between Ragla and Farrel.

108th Street between Patterson and Duncan Lake.

Charlton Park Road between M-43 and Barnum.

Large trees across on Gilkey Road between Enzian and Burchett.

Please use extreme caution while driving, there are many spots with standing water. We have put dozens of lighted type 2 barricades county wide marking water.





Barry, Ionia counties may get more road funds this summer

Roads in Barry and Ionia counties would benefit from legislation approved Feb. 21 by the Michigan House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for consideration, according to a news release from 87th District Rep Julie Calley, who voted for the measure.


The $175 million bill, HB 4321, provides additional money for road preservation and construction across Michigan as early as this summer. In addition to state projects, the bill includes money for  roads throughout Michigan.


Estimated local allocations include Barry County ($539,459), Ionia County ($538,333), the cities of Portland ($32,483), Hastings ($57,157) and Freeport ($5,685), and the villages of Middleville ($24,546), Nashville ($13,545) Woodland ($3,391), Pewamo ($5,504), Lake Odessa ($16,221), Saranac ($10,429), Clarksville ($3,858), Lyons ($8,441) Muir ($5,541) and Hubbardston ($5,336), the release said.


“Our drivers need safe, dependable roads, and the winter is really taking a toll on our streets and highways,” said Calley, of Portland. “Our communities need the funding to combat the seasonal damage and our save roads from further decay.”


The money is left over from a previous state government budget cycle and is already available, meaning no budget cuts or additional fees or taxes are required for the investment. The money included in the bill is in addition to previous changes providing more funding for road and bridge projects across the state.



Ionia County Road Commission closes Maple River Bridge due to rising water

The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office is advising motorist to avoid the area of M-21 east of Muir at the Maple River Bridge in Ionia County.


On Wednesday, Feb. 21 at approximately 7 p.m., the water level in the river began pushing against the deck of the bridge. As a safety precaution the Ionia County Road Commission has closed the bridge until the water recedes.


The Road Commission is asking all class A traffic (commercial trucks and buses) that are eastbound M-21 to travel southbound M-66 to eastbound I-96 to Grange Road exit, North on Grange Road back to M-21.


All westbound M-21 traffic can follow southbound Grange Road to westbound I-96 to northbound M-66 to M-21.


Private passenger vehicles are also encouraged to follow the above listed route due to rapidly changing conditions causing flooding on secondary roads that is leading to short notice road closures.



Financial help offered for children's special health care

Residents who have children with special chronic health care needs may find financial help for medical expenses through Children’s Special Health Care Services (CSHCS), a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services program, according to a Barry Eaton District Health Department newsrelease.


The special health care service helps families of children, and some adults, with certain health care needs to pay for health-related expenses including specialty medical bills, transportation to specialty doctor’s appointments, and, if clients have insurance or Medicaid, co-pays and deductibles. If clients do not have health insurance, CSHCS can provide specialty coverage.


The Barry-Eaton District Health Department is an advocate for CSHCS and provides services to eligible residents in Barry and Eaton counties, working with local families to help them get needed medical-related services to ensure the very best care.//


The health department, with CSHCS, serves as the link between the Michigan Health and Human Services and the specialty health care service, the family and the local community to assist clients in receiving services they need, said program nurse Kindra Reeser-Smith.

 “I’m happy to connect with families to develop a proactive plan of care and community-based care coordination.”


For more, call (269) 798-4115 in Barry County or (517) 541-2696  in Eaton County, or  visit


More than 2,700 chronic physical medical conditions can qualify those under the age of 21 for specialty health services that can include asthma, cancer, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, liver or kidney disease, club foot, deformed limbs, spina bifada, certain vision disorders, paralysis or spinal injuries, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, insulin-dependent diabetes, muscular dystrophy, certain heart conditions, epilepsy, and many, many other conditions.


Persons 21 and older also may be eligible if they have cystic fibrosis or hereditary hemophilia.

To be eligible for the service, the child or their parent or guardian must be a legal Michigan resident. CSHCS is not based on income or insurance status; any eligible child with an accepted medical condition can use CSHCS, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

There is a sliding-scale fee to join CSHCS based on family income and family size.


If the client has Medicaid or MIChild insurance or has a court-appointed guardian or is in foster care, the fee is waived.







Grant would increase security in Barry County courts

Barry County courts will have increased security if a Risk Avoidance Program grant is awarded and the county commission authorizes supplemental funds from the diverted felon’s fund. Court Administrator Ines Straube told the Barry County committee of the whole Tuesday that the total cost of the upgrades would be $44.061.


If the grant is awarded, the request would be $29,520.87; if the $14, 540.13 grant is not awarded, her request is for the entire cost of $44, 061 to come from the diverted felon’s fund, she said.


District Court Judge Michael Schipper came to support the request and answer questions from commissioners. “Anytime we can make it safer for the people I’m all for it” he said. There have been instances in and around the courtrooms that required police intervention, and just knowing of the increased security also is a deterrent, he said. A good percentage of people coming to court are “frequent flyers” and will know of the increased security.


The funding would pay for two electronic imaging systems to scan purses, briefcases and other items the public carries when entering the Courts & Law and Barry County Courthouse, bullet resistant glass at public counters in the district and family court offices and video surveillance systems covering the county courthouse and Courts & Law buildings, sidewalks and parking lots.


When emotions run high, parking lots are very dangerous places, Schipper said, and he would like a record of what happens there.


Also Tuesday, the committee of the whole recommended approval of a resolution required to let the County Drain Commission exceed its $10,000 a year spending limit on maintenance of a dam.

Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said the rising water levels at Upper Crooked Lake have been a problem for several years with water going over the weir that should hold it, ruining new landscaping, flooding basements and causing loss of lake frontage.


“Complaints are coming from residents on all four sides of the lake… they definitely have a problem,” Dull said.

Dull said he has contacted engineer Brian Cenci from ENG, Inc. and attorney Doug Kelly from Clark Hill PLC to identify the problem and find a solution.


The committee also recommended approval of the renewal of a proposal from CBIZ Retirement Plan Services for $11,000 to complete the 2017 actuarial valuation of other post-employment benefits for the county. The fee is the same as last years.


Thornapple Parks & Recreation Commission member Catherine Getty was recommended for re-appointment to the Barry County Parks & Recreation Board for a three-year at its request.


New roofs recommended for several Charlton Park buildings

The Charlton Park Board unanimously voted to ask the Barry County Commission for up to $107,657.25 for roof replacement on several Charlton Park buildings with funds from the county’s Building Rehabilitation Fund.


Park Director Dan Patton had approached the commission earlier about the poor shape the roofs were in and was asked to get proposals for the projects.


Patton said five companies contacted them about the work; four companies did a walk through and two submitted bids. The low bidder was Affordable Metal Roofing at $98,615 plus 15 percent, or $14,042.25 for contingencies for a total of $107, 657.25. JC Custom Builders bid a total of $148,597.25, including the 15 percent contingency.


Affordable’s low bid, unanimously recommended by the park’s facilities committee, is:

Carlton Center Church, $28,000; Upjohn House/Office, $22,500; Main Street Complex (General Store, Hardware Store, Print Shop), $26,300; Upjohn Carriage House, $11,500; eaves troughs, $4,315; and insulation, $4,000.  Affordable included a $3,000 discount for doing all the projects at the same time. The committee of the whole recommended approval of the upgrades to the full board.


Also recommended for approval was an application for a $175,000 DEQ Brownfield Redevelopment grant for Stickmann Baeckerei in Yankee Springs Township. Herbert Welz, owner of the bakery/restaurant wants to mitigate environmental contamination and expand his business at 11378 West M-179 Highway.


Jim McManus, representing Barry County Planning/Brownfield Authority, said the expansion would have $500,000 in private investment and create 14 permanent jobs. The property is the site of a former gas station and has ground water contaminated by ethylbenzene, xylenes, naphthalene and other contaminants. The Brownfield Development Authority and Economic Development Alliance are working with Welz, McManus said.





Superintendent's Platform

WBCH offers this space to area superintendents to highlight activities in their school districts. This post is from Lakewood Schools Superintendent Randy Fleenor


Dear Lakewood Public Schools Staff and Families:

Many lives were lost yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at the hands of a former classmate.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, victims, and everyone affected by this tragedy. Unfortunately, school shootings and violence are in the news too often.

While the reasons for these senseless acts of violence will continue to be debated, it is important that schools, families, and communities continue to work together to prevent such incidents from occurring. Lakewood Public Schools has worked hard to provide safeguards for our students and staffs if something were to happen, but also minimize the chance of this happening at all. 


In light of recent events, I wanted to relay information about the safety protocols at Lakewood Public Schools. Please know that above all else, student safety is our primary concern.  All entrances are locked and monitored (with the exception of our high school-crews will be installing a locked-entry system next week).


Visitors may only access the building through the main entrance buzzed in by a staff member where I.D. may be required.  You can support us in ensuring the safety of our staff and students by having your I.D. ready when you come to Lakewood Public Schools for any reason. 

Our staff and students have participated in multiple safety drills to ensure we are prepared in the event of an emergency. The district also has liaison officer through Barry County Sheriff Department. 


The many challenges our students face today often lead to stress and mental health issues.  The best defense in the prevention of school violence may be found in a strong school/home partnership.   Communication is the most powerful tool we can use to keep our students safe. Together, as a community, we will continue to move forward and do what is best for our students.


The following resources may help shape our discussion and provide some talking points when dealing with and preventing school violence. 


"Emergency Lesson Plans" for helping children cope with an emergent crisis.


Teaching Tolerance Website



American Psychological Association: Talking with Kids About School Shootings for Parents


Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators


Responding to Traumatic Events: Learn how to help children cope with trauma


Going Back to School After a Tragedy


Nine Tips for Talking to kids about trauma


Please know that we will continue to be proactive in our prevention efforts and in keeping our buildings safe and secure.  You are my eyes and ears in our community and I am always open to suggestions on how we can improve. 

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions or suggestions.   You may reach me by phone at 616.374.8858 or at



Allegan County SWAT team takes suicidal man into custody

At about 12:30 a.m. today, Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a residence in Wayland Township to a situation of a woman and four children inside a home with a suicidal man armed with a gun. The Allegan County SWAT team was called in and after short negotiations,  a 40-year-old man from Wayland Township was taken into custody without incident.  Deputies were assisted by Michigan State Police and Barry County Sheriff’s deputies.



Suspicious death being investigated by Ionia County Sheriff's Office

The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a suspicious death on Charlotte Highway between Cutler and Peake roads in Danby Township.  Deputies were dispatched to the report of a subject in the roadway on Feb.19 at 4:30 a.m. and discovered the body of Nicholas Hoppes, 29, of Portland, lying deceased in the northbound lane of the road.


The death is being treated as suspicious, and is under investigation to determine the circumstances and if the death was caused by a vehicle collision or other means.

Anyone who has information related to this case is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s office via Central Dispatch at 616-527-0400 or Silent Observer at 616-527-0107. 



Armed Robbery Arrest

The Kentwood Police Department arrested 3 suspects in connection to multiple armed robberies at Eastland Apartments. The suspects used Craigslist to set-up a message at the Apartments.  When the victim arrived, the suspects robbed him at gun point and fled in a vehicle.

The suspects were arrested by Wyoming police after a traffic stop a  short time later.

The two adult suspects have been charged with armed robbery, carrying a concealed weapon and using a computer for a crime. A juvenile suspect was also involved in the robbery.


220 people, 53 churches represented at Barry County Safety and Security Summit

Church leaders are more and more concerned about safety and security for their church families these days with news of mass shootings, even in sacred places, now added to other emergencies they need to be prepared to handle.

The Barry County Safety and Security Summit held at Thornapple Valley Church Feb. 16 attracted 220 visitors and representatives from 53 churches in Michigan and Indiana. Presented by the


Thornapple Valley Churches Emergency Services, with help from the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, the event featured speakers from Barry Central Dispatch 911, Barry County Emergency Management, emergency medical services and information dealing with medical emergencies, communications, Smart 911, fires, accidents, severe weather and more.


The audience had advice from experts on how to deal with suspicious and dangerous people, the intoxicated, and domestic issues, how to build and keep volunteer teams and how to develop policies and procedures to address all types of emergencies.


“We no longer live in a world where the church, its people and its property are sanctuaries. As we deal with today’s humans, we are faced with an acceptance that we must also learn to deal with their mindsets as they react to issues and circumstance of life,” the introduction to the summit read. "Together, we can address the myriad issues each of us face. Together we can make a positive difference.”


Lyn Briel, leader of Thornapple Valley Churches Emergency Services since 2002, said when providing security and safety program to a church, every facility is different, but there are also basic similarities.

“It isn’t just about guns; it is any emergency that might happen. If you have a heart attack or other medical emergency, a gas leak, a fire; that’s why we have the emergency people here.

“You want people who are seeking support to feel welcome. Our world is full of challenges, and we have to be prepared,” Briel said.


Pam Dahlke is a member of the TVC Middleville campus. “I’m the TVC guest services leader. I heard about the summit and came to educate myself, learn more about the program. In this day and age, it’s definitely needed.”


Matt Amos, a member of the Living Waters Church in Hastings, lives in Battle Creek. He was asked to attend because, “the topics here are all being discussed in church. We wanted guidance from the summit; we want to move forward with programs that will protect our congregation.

“They are talking about hard and soft targets. We want to make sure the terrorists know that we’re not a soft target. The information is already here, we just need to put it together. I’ve already called my pastor and said, ‘we need to talk.’”


The sheriff’s office has offered security plans for individual churches since the Columbine shooting. Sheriff Dar Leaf said TVC was their first church security project. “We are happy to sponsor and help with the summit,” he said.


When Leaf became sheriff, he expanded the program in Barry County and neighboring counties, involving the Sheriff’s Posse and the Auxiliary.  “The auxiliary really stepped up; they enjoy helping churches,” he said. “The summit drew members from churches in other counties. Our hope is they bring back what they learned to their churches.”


Other organizations provided more information including “Emergency Preparedness…What to Do When Disaster Threatens,” Smart 911; West Michigan Church Security Network, “Strategos International…Church/Workplace Violence,” Compliance One Group, and “Critical Facility Information...How to Create a Profile for Your Organization.”






UPDATE: Police identify Byron Township robbery suspect

FURTHER UPDATE: On Feb. 21, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a charge on John Earl Palmer Jr., 50 years old from Grand Rapids, for home invasion 2nd Degree. He was arraigned in 63rd District Court and is in the Kent County Correctional Facility.


UPDATE: The Kent County Sheriff's Office reports several tips from citizens after seeing the surveillance photographs on the news and social media helped them identify a suspect. On Feb. 20 a suspect was arrested in the City of Grand Rapids and lodged at the Kent County Correctional Facility. The name is being withheld until the case is reviewed by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office and the suspect is arraigned.



ORIGINAL STORY: The Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to a home invasion report in the 4400 Block of 76th Street S.W. in Byron Township on Feb. 16.

The caller reported that they returned home in the afternoon and discovered a television and money were stolen from their home.


The home owner’s surveillance camera recorded the suspect loading the TV into a purple four-door passenger car, possibly a 2005 Buick LaCrosse. The suspect is a black male, wearing a light brown winter stocking cap, black jacket, blue jeans, and grey and white Nike tennis shoes.


Anyone with information or who can identify the suspect is asked to call The Kent County Sheriff’s Office at (616) 632-6357 or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.













(left) The suspect in Byron Center home invasion and robbery


Barry County Commision chairman gives the "State of the County"

**Barry County Commissioner and chair Ben Geiger reported on the “State of the County” Tuesday. He gave a review of 2017 and forecast for 2018, with some personal insights into his philosophy of public service. The following is the speech:


“2017 was a good year across Barry County. As a county government, we are poised to have another great year in 2018. Our bond rating is strong. Our debt level is low. We’re working together. Our goals are set high.


But our success in the year ahead will not be measured in the number of programs we make, laws we pass, buildings we open or dollars we save. Rather, our success will be measured by the trust we have built and maintained here in Barry County. Today, state of the county is strong. And I’m here to share three ways we will remain strong in 2018: relevance, reflection and recruitment.



In 2018, the Barry County Board of Commissioners will continue attending to needs of the community. Since the last time I gave this address, the condition of our jail and our COA building have not improved. And a millage request to fix the latter was not approved. It will be challenging, but together we can find a funding plan for new facilities that both respect   taxpayer dollars, and offer more than short-sighted Band-Aid solutions.


Second, we as a county government will help grow the community. Literally. Did you know industry experts say Michigan needs 25,000 new homes just to keep up with turnover demand? And did you know we're producing only 16,000 houses? That’s because there aren't enough places to build, and not enough workers to build them.

I am so proud of my fellow commissioners for doing their part by investing in skilled trades. By training Barry County students, we will build Barry County's future.



We must learn from the past in shaping public policy for the future.

Ten years ago, Barry and Eaton counties began a new program for well and septic inspections. A program called TOST. This is a bold policy, found only in a handful on communities across Michigan.


But ever since its inception, the program has divided and polarized residents on a topic that should unite us – clean water and less pollution. Now, after ten years of bickering, commissioners in both counties are seeking a fresh start. Last month we began the process to rescind this regulation, but not our desire for safe, healthy, prosperous communities. If we all seek cleaner water, if we all seek less pollution, let’s have a policy we all can stand behind.


In hindsight, we can see that strong public policy is built on strong public support. Not the other way around. From this day forward, we must remember if we demand higher standards of our residents we must demand higher standards of our leaders. 


All officials, elected or appointed, must be able to defend and explain the programs they establish for the people they represent. If they cannot, or if they will not, then we will lose the public's trust once again. It's not wrong to maintain higher standards. It's wrong to think it's easy. 


Only when we understand these leadership lessons, and resolve never to repeat them again, will we be able to adopt a sweeping program like this in the future.


Finally, recruitment.


In temperature and in politics, summer 2012 was brutally hot. I learned this campaigning door to door, in my sister’s purple car that didn’t have AC. So. on a cloudless July day, I pulled up to a ramshackle cabin in a damp, buggy swamp, less than enthused. When I knocked on the door, the shadow of tall, old man demanded I identify myself. I said “I’m Ben Geiger..” He said 'yes, my county commissioner.'


He extended his hand, and welcomed me into his home. After a few minutes sitting there on a harvest gold, plastic-wrapped couch, I garnered this was a man of little wealth, few visitors and limited days. The old man, with a smile on this face, peppered me with questions about everything.


He asked about goals, my aspirations, leadership, and how it felt to serve the public. 

And when he ran out questions, the old man, still smiling longingly gazed out the window and shared seven words I’ll never forget. He said, “I always wanted to be a commissioner.” He said, “I always wanted to help my neighbors.” He said, “I always wanted to make a difference.”


Sometimes I think about that old man. Sometimes I wonder what he'd work on if he had one day in my shoes. He wouldn’t devote his day to politics. He’d devote his day to people.

As county leaders, sometimes our vision is limited. We’re too close for perspective. Sometimes our vision is limited.


That’s why it’s you we depend on, the people. Barry County has 26 boards, commissions and authorities that rely on citizen members. From encouraging recycling, to promoting parks, from protecting mental health to reviewing county finances, county government depends on more than 150 dedicated citizen appointees who don’t hold a title – but do hold a passion to serve.


For too long, we’ve viewed filling these positions more as a hassle than an opportunity.

That changes in 2018. Beginning next week, I will place before the board the components of a new recruitment strategy for our citizen boards. We must seek out new voices with energy, passion and heart.


We must seek people of all ages and backgrounds, who understand our rich history and strong institutions weren't built by a person who pushes their sole agenda; but by a team that pulls in the same direction.


Just imagine the possibilities when our best and brightest step forward in civic duty. Just imagine the possibilities when 150 public servants are handed the tools to make a difference. Just imagine the places they'd lead us. Just imagine this county, our home. With that, thank you for your time. Let's have a great year together.”




Second snowmobile goes through the ice on Gun Lake

Wayland Fire Department got a call for help Feb. 16  at 4 p.m. similar to one a week ago.


A snowmobile had gone through the ice on west Gun Lake, the second such incident in a week. Friday, the snowmobile was still in the water, but the rider managed to get himself out and was walking to shore when the fire department arrived, Chief Joe Miller said.


“He’s doing okay. Yankee Springs Fire Department checked him out while they waited for an ambulance,” Miller said. “He plans on getting the snowmobile out tomorrow.”


He noted the man went through the ice at almost the same place a woman and her husband went into the lake last week. The man made it to shore, his wife waited for rescue standing on the partially submerged machine.


Miller advises snowmobile riders to stay off Gun Lake.



Church Security

Over two hundred individuals from Barry and surrounding counties today Friday attended a Barry County Church Security and Safety Summit held at Thornapple Valley Church.

The program featured a number of speakers including Stephanie Lehman director of Barry Central 911 who spoke on Key Communications,  Eric Olsen on Policies and Procedures, Brandon Hoving Meterologist with the National Weather Service  and Emergency Management Director Jim Yarger speaking on Critical Incidents and Larry jackson and Skip Coryel speaking on building teams.

The all day event was developed as the result of a number shootings and other events involving schools and places of worship that have occured across the country.


Allegan County Sheriff's K9 Lajki now wears body armor

 The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office K9 Lajki has received a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. 


K9 Lajki, with the sheriff’s office for a year, is a 26-month-old German Shephard handled by Deputy Mike Martin. The K9 has already located illegal drugs on several occasions and made several successful tracks. Lajki also spends time in schools and at community events interacting with the public.


“The vest received from Vested Interest will be a great asset for the safety of Lajki.  The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office is very thankful,” Martin said. The sheriff’s office has four teams in the Deputy/K9 Unit.


The donation for one protective vest is $950. Each is valued between $1,744 and $2,283, has a five-year warranty and an average weight of four to five pounds. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s in the United States. The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months old including new K9 graduates and K9s with expired vests.//


Established in 2009, the non-profit has provided more than 2,800 protective vests in 50 states, through private and corporate donations, at a cost of more than $2.4 million dollars.

The vest from anonymous sponsor is embroidered with the sentiment, “This gift of protection provided by Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.”


Vested Interest accepts tax-deductible donations at or by mail to P.O. Box 9 East Taunton, MA 02718. For more information or volunteer opportunities, call 508-824-6978.











Photo: Allegan County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Lajki models his new vest


Barry County Sheriff reports January activity

The Barry County Sheriff’s January 2018 activity report to County Commissioners, with comparisons with five years ago, showed:                                       

Incidents handled: 

2018--663                    2013--448       

Accidents handled:

2018--107                    2013--107


2018--58                      2013--42


2018--63, 31 F, 57 M   2013--73, 73 F, 53 M

F=felony     M=misdemeanor

Alcohol arrests:

2018--8                        2013--6

The K-9 unit was called on two occasions for drug recovery and apprehending individuals in criminal cases. The office did 67 home checks, assisted the Swift and Sure, Sobriety and Drug courts. Criminal history checks for warrants or warrant requests were run 420 times.


At the jail, 247 persons were booked into jail in January, and released 171 back into the community. Of those booked, 65 were “weekenders.” In 2013, 259 were booked into jail and 194 released.Staff fingerprinted 101 people at the front desk last month, 126 were fingerprinted in January, 2013.


Deputies escorted 71 prisoners to court, and staff administered 110 weekend drug screens to probationers. The kitchen staff prepared and served 7,945 meals to the inmate population at the cost of $1.53 a meal. Costs for the month included $6,408.81 for plumbing repairs, $3,960.43 for HVAC repair and $116 for security repairs.



Barry County Mental Health to be featured at Community Breakfast

The next Community Breakfast will be Wednesday, Feb. 21 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the Barry Community Enrichment Center 215 Broadway, Hastings.


Barry County Community Mental Health will be represented by Jacob Crowell and Erica Enz to discuss the eligibility qualifications, current services and trauma services available to Barry County residents.

The public is invited to attend and learn more about how BCCMH can help someone they know receive help and support.


The free breakfast is sponsored by the Family Support Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), DHHS Foster Care and Barry Great Start Coalition BISD to bring awareness of the services available to help in the safety or well-being of our families and youth.


Those planning to attend are asked to call 269-945-KIDZ(5439) or email



Barry County Road Weight Restrictions

Barry County Road Commission announced today that Weight Restrictions will be going on Monday, Februrary 19th at 6:00a.m..  The Road Commission has new permits this year so you will need to complete the new form for approval.  Permits can be found on their  web site at

The Road Commission phones are down at this time and hopes are that they will be up and running soon.





Recall of Yankee Springs officials starts over with language change on petitions

The paperwork required to attempt a recall of two Yankee Springs officials will be redone because of a revision in the wording on the petition forms, Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer said Wednesday.


Both the initiators of the recall petitions, Larry Knowles against Trustee Shanon Vandenberg and Julie Fox against Clerk Jan Lippert have been notified they will need to fill out the new petitions, Palmer said.


A new clarity hearing for Vandenberg has been set for Feb. 26. Lippert’s clarity hearing, set for today, was cancelled and a new date has not been set.


Palmer said the same situation with a petition language change happened in Wayne County. She opted to restart the process to comply with the new petitions before the petition drives got underway, and signatures were gathered.


The procedure for both officials is the same as before: they have 10 days from their hearing to appeal the decision to the Barry County Circuit Court, and no petitions can be circulated during those 10 days. The language on the petition is good for 180 days, the signatures good for 60 days.


All the signatures must be collected within 60 days of the first signature being recorded.

Vandenberg is accused of  being guilty of a conflict of interest when he tried to get approval of his development, corrupting the decision making process by not providing information to various township officials.  


Fox charges Lippert violated numerous provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, making false statements about her and questioning her mental status. Clarity hearings determine only if the reasons for the recall are factual and clear enough to let the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the conduct that is the basis for the recall.




Today is Ash Wednesday


Today is Ash Wednesday and the Hastings Ministerial Association was offering Ashes to go this morning in downtown Hastings.










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