U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd once called children, “Our greatest asset and our most precious treasure.” And despite weather that turned cold and blustery, that sentiment was reflected by Big Rapids at Thursday's annual Children's Parade down Michigan Avenue. Parade organizer LouAnn Gregory says there's always a good turnout.
“It might be a lower turnout due to the weather, but in the past we've had anywhere from 900 to 1200.”
One resident along the parade route summed up the reason many were in attendance.
“To see my grandchildren,” he said.
Although many children said they were happy to get out of school for the parade, most were glad to get back on their buses after the half mile walk down Michigan Avenue.
President Trump is now saying he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Last week, Trump said he planned to either renegotiate or terminate NAFTA.
Michigan Corn Grower Association Executive Director Jim Zook says since NAFTA was put into place, U.S. corn exports to Mexico and Canada have increased more than seven-fold and pulling out of NAFTA would hurt the profitability of Michigan corn farmers at a time when they are already facing prices that are at or below the cost of production.
A conservation group is raising questions about Dow Chemical's attempts to convince the Trump administration to drop studies that show its pesticides could harm endangered species.
In a series of leaked letters, executives from the Midland-headquartered company asked EPA chief Scott Pruitt to withdraw recently released "biological evaluations" that show three insecticides – including Dow's chlorpyrifos – are likely to harm 97 percent of threatened or endangered species.
Brett Hartl with the Center for Biological Diversity says killing those studies would scuttle a four-year process undertaken to calculate risks and set limits on where the pesticide can be sprayed.
"Dow is now saying, 'Oh, the science is flawed. We need to start completely over' – which is an absurd delaying tactic because they don't like the result."
Hartl notes that Dow contributed $1,000,000 to President Trump's inauguration, and that Trump named Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturing Council.
Earlier this week, Michigan approved amended tax incentives for Dow Chemical.
The state's economy may be improving, but a new study says 75 percent of Michigan residents face stagnant or declining incomes.
Michigan First President Lou Glazer says in spite of the state's low unemployment rate, 40 percent of Michigan households do not have the finances to meet basic needs.
He says a college education is the most reliable path to a good-paying job.
However, the average annual in-state college tuition in Michigan stands at just under $14,000.
Those working at minimum wage jobs earn just over $15,000 a year making college cost prohibitive.
Michigan State Police say one person is dead following a two car crash Wednesday morning near Stanton in Montcalm County.
It happened near the intersection of M-66 and Sidney Road on the border of Sidney and Evergreen townships, south of Stanton.
Authorities have not released the name of the deceased pending notification of family members.
The intersection was closed for a period of time while emergency crews were on scene. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Authorities from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development say bovine tuberculosis has been found in a cow in West Michigan.
The three year old cow was in a small beef heard in Lake County and had been imported from an infected herd in Franklin County, Indiana.
The cow was euthanized.
The agency says a three-mile surveillance area has been established around the affected farm in Lake County and farms within the area will have six months to complete bovine TB testing.
Speed limits will be going up on a number of Michigan freeways and highways.
The Michigan State Police and MDOT say speed limits along 600 freeway miles in Michigan can be safely increased to 75 miles per hour and 900 miles of highways can go up to 65 miles per hour.
This includes US-131 from M57 in Kent County through Montcalm, Mecosta, Osceola, and Wexford counties to where the freeway ends north of Manton and US-10 from M-115 to I-75 through Clare, Isabella, Midland, and Bay counties.
MDOT says they will begin posting the new speed limits starting May 1.
N. Fourth Avenue just north of Baldwin Street will be closed for some time as a piece of construction equipment hit a utility pole late Wednesday afternoon.
Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jeff Hauger says the pole supports high tension power lines that can energize the ground if they make contact with it.
“The construction crew hit it and broke the pole and it's just barely hanging on.”
He says windy conditions make the situation even more dangerous and it will be some time before the road is reopened because another crew has to be brought on scene, assess the damage, and then begin repairs.
“We basically want people to avoid the area as much as possible,” he says.
Hauger notes no one was injured in the mishap and authorities want to keep it that way.
The Month of the Young Child celebrations continue with Reed City holding their Children's Parade on Wednesday.
Great Start Collaborative Coordinator LouAnn Gregory was there and she says about 600 students took part. She adds the parade is about bringing attention to early childhood and how important the early years are.
The Great Start Collaborative is also teaming up with the Mecosta County Chamber of Commerce for a Community and Family Expo in Big Rapids this weekend.
That event starts at 9:00 am on Saturday at the Big Rapids Middle School.
More than 100 people will be laid off this summer as the privately run North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin closes its doors just two years after reopening.
Florida-based GEO Group says the prison will close on June 20th, and the entire workforce will be laid off.
In a filing with the State of Michigan, the company says it is closing the prison because the contract to hold the prisoners was not renewed.
One person is recovering after being hit by a vehicle while trying to cross State Street in Big Rapids.
It happened Monday near the McDonald's restaurant, officers say the vehicle and person trying to cross the street were hidden from each other by another stopped vehicle in the inside lane.
The pedestrian was taken to a Grand Rapids Hospital for their injuries.
A Reed City man with prior felony convictions now faces multiple criminal sexual conduct charges.
According to court documents, 43-year-old Jeffrey Kenneth-Charles Newlove was arraigned on three counts of second-degree CSC following incidents with a young girl in Richmond Township earlier this month.
He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, but could see more time added as a habitual offender.
His bond is set at $250,000.
Michigan taxpayers who missed the Tuesday, April 18, state individual income tax filing deadline have options for filing a late return, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
“Late filers should file all income tax returns that are due,” says Deputy Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “If a taxpayer owes tax and cannot make full payment, Treasury will work with them on payment options. We want to help taxpayers avoid interest charges and late payment penalties.”
Treasury recommends past-due tax filers consider:
Filing a return to claim an outstanding refund. Taxpayers risk losing their state income tax refund if they don’t file a return four years from the date due of the original return. Go to www.mifastfile.org to learn more about e-filing.
Filing a return to avoid interest and penalties. File past due returns and pay now to limit interest charges and late payment penalties. Failure to pay could affect a taxpayer’s credit score and the ability to obtain loans.
Requesting a penalty waiver. Penalty may be waived on an assessment if a taxpayer can show reasonable cause for their failure to pay on time. Reasonable cause includes serious illness, a fire or natural disaster, or criminal acts against you. Documentation should be submitted to substantiate the reason for a penalty waiver request.
Paying as much owed tax as possible. If taxpayers owe but can’t pay in full, they should pay as much as they can when they file their tax return. Payments can be made using Michigan’s e-Payments service. When mailing checks, carefully follow tax form instructions. Treasury will work with taxpayers who cannot pay the full amount of tax they owe.
Making monthly payments through an installment agreement. For Installment Agreements lasting for 24 months or less, taxpayers must complete, sign and return the Installment Agreement (Form 990). The agreement requires a proposed payment amount that will be reviewed for approval by Treasury.
To learn more about Michigan’s income tax, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax or call Treasury’s Income Tax Information Line at 517-636-4486. Taxpayer inquires can also be made online.
After receiving enough points at a state robotics competition two weeks ago, the Big Rapids High School robotics team, Big Red Theory, is heading to St. Louis to compete nationally. Coach Andrew Defever says the team leaves for St. Louis Wednesday morning and the competition runs through Saturday.
“We have 13 students on our team this year. We have four freshman, couple of sophomores, two juniors, and then two seniors.”
One team member will not be going with the team because of a prior commitment with the BRHS band.
Team members will also have time to visit scholarship row and an innovation fair. Defever says financial support from anonymous donors and local businesses has been great, but it still costs a lot of money.
“We are still accepting donations right at the high school if anybody is willing to contribute to the team.”
Defever notes the team hopes to come home with a world championship and be invited back for the competition again next year.
A Big Rapids man is dead following a motorcycle crash Monday afternoon.
State Police say it happened on 90th Ave just north of Buchanan.
According to a witness, the motorcycle was traveling south on 90 th Ave when it left the road, entered the ditch, and rolled.
The driver was found unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver was identified as 50-year old Steven Mason of Big Rapids.
The cause of the crash has yet to be determined.
A Wexford County man is being evaluated at Cadillac Munson Hospital following an armed standoff with police on Sunday.
The Sheriff's Office says the Manton man was threatening to commit suicide and pointed a gun at Deputies on the scene.
He periodically came out of the residence on East 16 ½ Road near North 37 Road and refused to comply with Deputies' orders.
The man surrendered and was airlifted to the hospital after an Emergency Response Team deployed chemical agents.
After three years, drivers along Spruce Road in Green Charter Township may be getting some relief after the road was shut down. The problem with the culvert started back in 2014 says Township Supervisor Bob Baldwin.
“It got condemned by the Road Commission, the DEQ got involved, and it's a whole series of events from there on. But what we've been trying to do is figure out a way that we could do a replacement that was affordable.”
Baldwin says the Road Commission did not want to repair the culvert and the DEQ wanted to double its size, which was cost prohibitive. After much negotiation the Road Commission has committed $30,000 to the project provided they are given true engineering plans that have been approved by the DEQ.
“We've come a long ways but we're nearly there, I hope.”
The Township Board now has to decide on one of two companies that will design and engineer the project which is estimated to cost $80,000.
Thousands of Ferris State University students will be giving back to the Big Rapids Community today as part of the 2017 BIG Event.
Students will be raking, picking up trash and cleaning the outsides of area homes from 10am-3pm today.
Event officials are hoping to help 315 homes.
Saturday is Earth Day, and thousands are expected to take to the streets in Washington, DC, and other cities across the US and around the world. But instead of celebrating the natural environment – the People's Climate March will happen a week later – Cornell University biologist Sarah Evanega says Saturday's events are an opportunity for people of all political stripes to stand up in support of science.
"And without it, we would have no cure for polio, no microchips, no cell phones, no artificial hearts, no treatment for diabetes. This is not a partisan issue. We all benefit from the products of science."
One of America's most famous scientists – Bill Nye – is co-chairing the event alongside Dr. Hanna-Attisha, who discovered dangerous lead levels in kids living in Flint. Michiganders can join events in more than a dozen cities including Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing. More than 500 are planned across the globe.
A reminder that State Representative Michele Hoitenga is holding two listening sessions on Monday.
She'll be at Williams Cafe, 19636 30th Ave in Barryton from 8 to 9 am and then at the Moe-Z-Inn, 249 N. Cass St. in Morley from 11 am to noon.
Hoitenga is encouraging residents to come and let her know about their ideas and concerns because, she says, it makes her a more effective representative.
Local mail carriers are making preparations for one of the largest one-day food drives in the country.
On May 13th, while out on their mail route, carriers will be picking up cans of food that is set out by donors next to their mailbox.
It's all part of the 25th annual Stamp out Hunger Food Drive.
Last year, the Big Rapids, Paris and Rodney post offices brought in 7,500 pounds of food.
Donations collected on that day will be given to local food banks.
A Mecosta County woman is heading to jail after being sentenced on drug charges.
41-year old Jennifer Mae Hulbert of Stanwood is going to jail for at least two years.
She was one of three people arrested last May as part of a Central Michigan Enforcement Team investigation involving methamphetamine.
Hulbert was charged with operating/maintaining a meth lab, one count of possession of methamphetamine and one count of possession of hydromorphone.
As part of a plea deal, the Stanwood woman pleaded guilty to possession of hydromorphone, the two other charges were dismissed.
A lot of residents from Michigan's Fourth Congressional District are still mulling over the exchange of ideas during Congressman John Moolenaar's town hall style listening session Thursday night. Moolenaar faced a packed house at CMU's Plachta Auditorium in Mt. Pleasant which he described as “an earnest conversation about the issues facing our nation.”
The crowd asked questions about a broad range of issues from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act to gun rights, the fate of the EPA, social security, and the role of President Trump as a world leader.
“On an international front, I'd say he's been an effective, strong leader,” said Moolenaar.
Health care and the environment dominated as issues of concern and while Moolenaar was often jeered when he reiterated his support for repealing and replacing the ACA, he went on to explain that he does agree with having a heath care plan that covers those with preexisting conditions and lets young adults stay on their parents’ health insurance. One resident also called the Congressman on his voting record.
“I'd like to note that you've voted with the president 100 percent of the time thus far, and I would like to see a time when you vote when it seems more like it's in alignment with the views of the people that are your constituency,” he said.
Many in the crowd became frustrated when they felt the Congressman was side-stepping an issue. Often, during his response, he was greeted with chants of “Answer the question!” or “Health care is a right!”
However, he did received thunderous applause when he pledged to support a continuation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
“I'm part of the President's caucus, I am absolutely supporting it.”
Moolenaar concluded by saying, “I will continue to fight for the policies that benefit the hardworking residents of the district.”
An investigation by the Central Michigan Enforcement Team led to the arrest of a Mecosta County man on drug charges.
36-year old Brandon Michael Drier of Paris was arrested Tuesday by police.
He was arraigned on a host of charges including maintaining a drug house, manufacturing marijuana and delivery of marijuana.
The charges are connected to alleged incidents that occurred in Mecosta and Green Townships.
His bond was set at $100,000.
A new bureau has been developed to centralize all facets of the medical marijuana industry in the state. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says the bureau will include new statutory requirements for licensing along with maintaining existing oversight responsibilities.
Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba says they are already looking into how the new laws will affect Big Rapids.
“Mr. Gifford and Mrs. Gillis and I had talked about maybe having a retreat to hear from pros and cons as it relates to medical marijuana in light of the recent change to state law.”
Warba says Big Rapids Township has already been approached by two medical marijuana providers and would like to work with the city on how to approach the medical marijuana issue.
“Supervisor Stanek also wondered if the City Commission would be interested in a meeting with the Township Board, combine it and use that opportunity to hear from presenters on both sides of the fence.”
They hope to set up a combined meeting for sometime next month. Warba also suggested inviting City Attorney Eric Williams, Public Safety Director Jim Eddinger, County Prosecutor Brian Thiede, Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell, and Ferris University Director of Public Safety Bruce Borkovich to the meeting.
The new state bureau plans to make licensing applications available by December 15.
The plan by Nestle Waters North America to build a new pumping station has been denied by the Osceola Township Planning Commission.
Nestle wants the station to draw about 400 gallons of groundwater per minute and increase production at its Ice Mountain bottled water plant.
Many in the community and environmentalists had opposed the move. Nestle can appeal the decision.
The Mecosta County Park Commission is gearing up for the upcoming camping season and part of that effort is getting input on improvements for the park system. An online survey is available at mecostacountyparks.com and Superintendent Jeff Abel says so far, so good.
“We kicked off about a month ago now – the survey's going very well, we're very excited with the responses that we've gotten and we're encouraging everyone to continue to give us feedback.”
Abel says they want input from both park users and non-users both in and out of the county because all of the data gathered will be used to create a master plan for the parks that will affect rule changes and everything moving forward.
“We'd like everyone to take part in that survey and tell us if you don't use the parks, what can we do to get you to use the parks.”
Abel doesn't want to reveal all the survey results until all the data is in, but he does note some unexpected results.
“That's been a surprise for us so far that one of the top items that people are requesting that we start having in our parks is a farmer's market, so that's something that definitely we'll look in to,” he says.
And, even though the park system currently supports itself through camping fees, vehicle fees, fire wood and ice sales, the majority of the respondents so far say they would support the parks through a tax appropriation.
The survey runs though the end of April.
Social Media is becoming a crime scene. Police had been searching for Steve Stephens, an Ohio man who posted a murder on Facebook this weekend. Stephans killed himself after police spotted him in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Meanwhile Detroit police are looking for suspects in a mass brawl in Greektown that was captured on Facebook early Sunday morning. Why is this phenomenon becoming more prevalent?
“It's hard to understand why they would broadcast it to the general public unless they want to taunt people and make people feel powerless because they've seen what they've done but they can't find them. And that would probably be the best explanation,” says Michigan based psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Scheiner.
Scheiner adds people who feel insignificant might be the ones to post these crimes to social media to get their 15 minutes of fame. He says it is up to the people who run the sites to start monitoring for criminal activity before legislators start doing it for them.
The Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released Tuesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy, says 22 percent of Michigan children lived in poverty in 2015, a 15% increase since the end of the recession in 2008. However, project Director, Alicia Guevara Warren, says there was some good news.
“We're seeing a reduction in the number of students who are not graduating on time, so we're seeing more kids graduating from high school. We're seeing fewer teens who are experiencing birth at a young age, so there are some good things going on.”
She notes that the numbers of those living in poverty are still way too high, along with a disparity of poverty among children of color.
A Shelby man faces 15 years behind bars after he was arraigned on felony charges connected to sex crimes in Mecosta County.
49-year old Paul Arnold Spedowski is charged with second degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor following an investigation by the Michigan State Police.
Its alleged, Spedowski sexually assaulted a girl under the age of 13, according to court documents.
Spedowski's bond was set at $150,000.
Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska, by J. Sterling Morton and on April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.
At Monday's City Commission meeting, Mayor Mark Warba carried on the tradition by declaring April 28, 2017 as Arbor Day in Big Rapids. He notes that trees do a lot that many people take for granted.
“Trees reduce the erosion of our precious topsoil by wind and water, cut heating and cooling costs, moderate the temperature, clean the air, produce oxygen, and provide habitat for wildlife.”
Trees are a renewable resource providing fuel, wood, and paper products and, although they can sometimes be troublesome in an urban setting, Warba says they do a lot for the city as well.
“Trees in our city increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas, and beautify our community.”
Big Rapids Park and Recreation Board member Karen Simmon was on hand to accept the proclamation and she noted that the city has a long tradition of being tree friendly.
“The City of Big Rapids was just informed that we were successful for 39 years participating with Tree City USA.”
The decorative leaves received from Tree City USA by Big Rapids for all 39 years have been mounted on a new sign that will be displayed in the City Hall lobby.
Arbor Day has been traced back to the Spanish village of Mondoñedo when the first documented arbor plantation festival in the world was organized by its mayor in 1594.
Morel hunters are getting some help from the Michigan DNR.
An updated online map showing prescribed burn locations across the state is now available.
Morel mushrooms commonly sprout in locations burned by fire with a forested cover type, including several in Mecosta County.
The DNR says morel mushrooms are more likely to grow in burned areas where jack, white, or red pine once grew.
You can view the interactive map here.
This week is National Park Week – which means admission is free to all 417 parks and cultural sites this weekend. Alan Spears with the National Parks Conservation Association says the parks need to roll into their second century in the best shape possible and proposed cuts to to the National Park Service aren't a good idea.
"Well, I mean those cuts would be extreme, very extreme. And they would have an adverse impact on all operations for the Department of the Interior, and it would have an adverse impact on national parks,” he says.
The President has called protecting America’s national parks a “priority” for his administration but wants to cut funding for the National Parks Service by $1.6 billion. However, Congress will determine the final budget this fall.
There are many questions we may never think to ask our pharmacist and there are many misconceptions about common drugs.
To help, Spectrum Health is holding two presentations where you can ask pharmacist Jamie Hulliberger about the complexities of prescription medications.
The first session will be Tuesday, April 18 at noon at the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, and the second Thursday, April 20 at noon at the Reed City Fire Department.
Both presentations are free and food will be provided. You can register online at spectrumhealth.org/htwy or by calling 231.592.4207.
Road crews in Mecosta County are underway repairing a portion of 19 Mile Rd. after a culvert washed out.
Officials say it happened Friday.
The road is now closed between 60th and 65th Avenue near Barryton.
Mecosta Co. Road Commission Manager Joyce Randall says road crews are on scene assessing the situation and are in the process of creating a detor for motorists.
No word yet on when the road will be reopened.
The Big Rapids City Commission has a full agenda as they meet tonight at City Hall.
Mayor Mark Warba will make a Arbor Day proclamation.
Public Works Director Heather Bowman will give a presentation on service line warranties, then commissioners will award bids for projects at the wastewater treatment plant and take action on a resolution creating a Street Administrator position for the city.
The meeting starts at 6:30pm at City Hall.
Michigan lawmakers and other elected officials will not be getting a pay raise any time soon.
The State Officers Compensation Commission won't be meeting until next month when they will analyze the state's economy and budget outlook before making a decision.
The last pay hike in 2002 saw double-digit increases and were automatically approved by the Legislature under the Michigan constitution.
The constitution has since been changed requiring a vote by the lawmakers.
State lawmakers receive nearly $72,000 a year in salary, with a $10,800 expense allowance.
Hospital treatment in Michigan is being rated as the 25th best in the country according to pubic health watchdog group Leapfrog.
The spring 2017 Leapfrog Hospital Safety report says Michigan has dropped six spots since its last report in 2016.
Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital received an overall “A” grade, but the report did show the facility with some problem areas such as patients falls and not having enough qualified nurses.
You can see the ratings of Spectrum Big Rapids and other Michigan hospitals here.
A number of potentially dangerous Easter toys are being recalled by Target.
Store officials say the Hatch & Grow Easter Eggs, Easter Grow Toys, and Hatch Your Own Dino toys were included in the nationwide recall.
If ingested, they can expand inside a child's body and cause life-threatening intestinal obstructions.
Customers are encouraged to keep the toys away from small children, and they can return them to any Target store for a full refund.
A horseback rider in Wexford County is now safe after being stranded overnight in the woods.
Deputies say the woman was riding in the woods in Slagle Township when she was thrown from her horse then the horse fled.
They say the woman suffered a head injury and hypothermia.
She was taken to a hospital in traverse city where her condition is unknown at this time.
Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint sent a strongly worded letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Thursday, opposing Nestle Ice Mountain's request to pump more groundwater out of a well near Evart.
He says his constituents have urged him to oppose the company's permit request to increase its groundwater pumping from its White Pine Springs well which is located between two coldwater trout stream tributaries of the Muskegon River.
Kildee said scientific experts have shown allowing Nestle to increase its withdrawal from the well would result in damaging impacts to the environment and to wildlife.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is among the most unpopular governors in the U.S. according to a study done by a Washington D.C. based digital media and research company.
The latest Morning Consult Governor Approval rankings list Snyder just two spots from the bottom, ahead of only Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, and Dan Malloy of Connecticut.
The rankings are based on job performance ratings over the past three months.
Snyder had a 32 percent approval rating.
The most popular governor in the U-S right now is Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.
Lansing City Council is flipping its stance on being a "sanctuary city."
Wednesday evening's 5-2 vote overturns last week's unanimous vote which declared Michigan's capital a sanctuary that would protect immigrants.
The turn around follows pressure from the Chamber of Commerce.
Lansing is among the first to step back from the designation, which has no legal definition and varies in application.
If you want to let your congressman know how you feel about what's going on in Washington D.C., you'll have the opportunity next week.
On Thursday, April 20, Congressman John Moolenaar will be hosting a district-wide listening session at Central Michigan University.
Moolenaar says it fulfills the commitment he made to host a formal, district-wide listening session at a large, centrally located venue in the Fourth District, choosing the CMU Plachta Auditorium, 1200 South Franklin Street, Mount Pleasant, MI 48848.
The event, which starts at 7:30 pm, is open to all residents of Michigan's Fourth Congressional District, which covers 15 counties including Mecosta, Osceola, Montcalm, Isabella, Wexford, and Clare. Attendees can register for the event online at moolenaar.house.gov/listeningsession.
A Howard City man is facing serious charges after being accused of torturing a relative in Wexford County.
Police say the incidents took place in Cadillac between 2004 and 2006 then again in Selma Township between 2007 and 2011.
Allen Pattee faces three felony charges of torture.
If convicted, Pattee faces life in prison
A large and vocal crowd of people are concerned about Nestle Waters' request to increase its water pumping capacity near Evart. They showed up at FSU's University Center on Wednesday night to participate in the Department of Environmental Quality's public hearing on the matter. The hearing was expected to end around 9:00 pm but went well beyond.
A number of people, most of them Nestle employees, spoke in favor of granting the permit, but the majority voiced opposition to it. It was pointed out that the DEQ may be basing their decision on information from Nestle which, they say, depends on computer modeling, rather than real-time measurements in the field. Nestle has been pumping water from the Evart well for about 12 years. Maryanne Borden, who has lived on or around Twin Creek (which runs through Evart) for some 70 years, says something has happened.
“There hasn't been any significant change in that creek in all those decades. Today, that creek struggles to get around huge mud flats in the middle of the creek. I don't know what kind of science you could tell me that would explain what's happened there. Something drastic has happened there,” she says.
A lot of the comments voiced maintained that water is a human right and should not be sold as a commodity for corporate profit. Many said they didn't understand why Nestle should be allowed to take millions of gallons of water from Michigan for a $200 DEQ fee while many residents are charged thousands of dollars each year for a small fraction of that amount.
Many also believe the DEQ is failing to protect Michigan's natural resources for the people both in Mecosta County and across the state, such as Sylvia Orduño of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.
“And when I'm talking to people out in the hallway they're [DEQ officials] telling me, 'Well this isn't our responsibility, you've got to go to your elected officials.' No! You have been entrusted with this responsibility from the federal government and you need to do your job.”
Those who came to the hearing were from across the state and some were from out of state. Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba was there as was State Representative Michele Hoitenga. Hoitenga said she was still unsure of her stance on the issue but planned to make a decision after the hearing. Michigan gubernatorial candidate Bill Cobbs also made an appearance and spoke against the permit as well.
Nestle Natural Resource Manager Arlene Anderson-Vincent says they need the increased capacity because of the market.
“Bottled water sales in the mid-west and across the nation are growing so we're applying for an increase to help us support our future growth and our customer demand,” she says.
Although the hearing was the only pubic hearing the DEQ has had on the Nestle request, DEQ Public Information Officer Melody Kindraka says it's obvious it's caught the attention of a lot of people.
“We've received nearly 50,000 comments about the particular permit application so far. The majority of those comments have expressed some concerns about the environmental impact and also some water use rights and the quality of the water,” she says.
The DEQ says all public comments received will be given equal attention and will be answered. A report on their response will be made available on the MDEQ web site. The public comment period is open until 5:00 pm on April 21st and comments and may be emailed to email@example.com or sent by regular mail to:
MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division
Environmental Health Section
P.O Box 30421
Lansing, MI 48909-7741
The City of Big Rapids is moving to protect itself from a public right-of-way scam that is happening across the country and in Big Rapids. Private real estate development companies portraying themselves as public utilities are approaching municipalities with thinly disguised permit applications to put facilities in the right-of-way. They then build a facility, and lease or sell it to telecommunications companies. City Attorney Eric Williams says this sometimes ends up with 120 foot towers in a city's right-of-way.
“This is basically a private land grab under the guise of going in as a public utility when they're not public utilities.”
Some companies are saying it is much cheaper for the telecommunications companies to put their towers in the public right-of-way at little or no charge rather than lease space on private water towers or buildings. However, Williams notes the Michigan Constitution says use of rights-of-way must be obtained through consent and a franchise with the local municipality.
“What going on now is companies who suggest they're public utilities but really aren't are trying to do this without a franchise and without really getting consent.”
So far, two letters have been sent to the City of Big Rapids by companies wanting to put 120 foot towers in the city's right-of-way. They've been told no and, Williams notes, telecommunications providers can use space on city water towers, but they would have to lease it rather than claiming to be a public utility and basically getting to use the city streets and other rights-of-way for free.
“For city staff I think it would help if I were to give you [the City Commission] some proposed code language, city code language, that says point blank, similar to what's in the constitution, no you can't just build in the city right-of-way, you have to get a permit, you have to get a franchise.”
He says that would make it easier to respond to requests similar to one the city has gotten that basically said:
“Looks like there's no permit requirements for regulation so we've just asked for one and if we're right we're going to build it and if we're wrong it's up to you to tell us not to.”
City Commission has asked Williams to draft an amendment for the city building code that reflects the stance of the Michigan Consitution.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is being sued for using private emails for state business. Progress Michigan has filed the lawsuit against the AG and his staff. Executive director Lonnie Scott says even though it is not illegal to conduct business through private email, their requests to receive all of the emails through the Freedom of Information Act has been denied twice.
“When you are using a personal email, even if it's personal email that does not exempt you from the Freedom of Information Act if you're conducting state business. The Freedom of Information Act in Michigan, it has a lot of flaws, but it's very clear that you have created a public record even if you're using a private email address there's no exemption for private email,” he says.
Scott adds the public is entitled to a transparent an accountable government. The lawsuit asks the court of Claims to say private emails used by public officials to conduct public business should be subject to open records laws.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is hosting a information session and public hearing tonight regarding Nestlé Waters application to increase water withdrawal from its well in Evart.
An information session runs from 4 pm to 6 pm and the public hearing will begin at 7 p.m.
Both sessions are at the University Center on FSU's campus.
A new victim has come forward accusing a Mecosta County man of sexual assault.
39-year old Paul Alexander Smith of Barryton was arraigned on two felony counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct involving a minor.
According to court documents, the alleged incidents took place between 2007-2013 in Big Rapids.
Smith was charged in a separate case last week with sex crimes involving a minor. Those alleged incidents took place between 2015-2017 in Sheridan Township.
Smith faces up to life in prison, if convicted on the charges. His bond was set at $1-million dollars.
The City of Big Rapids has been named one of the top 500 pet friendly places in the country according to a new report by website Millennial Personal Finance.
According to the report titled Most Pet Friendly Cities, Big Rapids ranks 165th in the country.
The rankings were based on three parameters, pet services like , the number of veterinary clinics and the number of parks, food retail stores, and pet shops.
Michigan had 17 towns and cities in the top 500.
For a fourth year in a row, Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital received an “A” rating from The Leapfrog Group for hospital safety.
Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital President Mary Kay VanDriel is honored to receive this award.
“Receiving an ‘A’ rating year after year is an outstanding accomplishment. Our team at Big
Rapids Hospital is dedicated to patient safety, and we’re very proud to accept the Leapfrog
Award,” VanDriel said. “It proves that each of our employees is an incredible asset in providing trusted, exceptional health care to the communities we serve.”
To see Big Rapids Hospital’s full grade, and to access consumer-friendly patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit www.hospitalsafetygrade.org. Reed City Hospital received a Top Hospital award from The Leapfrog Group in 2016, but does not qualify for a grade rating because it is a Critical Access Hospital.
Construction crews have started rebuilding nearly six miles of the road between Cadillac and Manton in Wexford County.
The rebuild of old US-131 is part of a $5.5 million project to repair the road that dates back to the 1930s.
Part of the project is to transfer the road from state control to Wexford County.
Crews hope to finish the project by October.
A second drug offense may be sending a 51-year-old Reed City woman to prison.
Amy Jo Smith is being charged with possession of marijuana or synthetic equivalent for a second time following an incident last month in Clam Lake Township.
Smith could spend the next two years in prison if convicted.
20-year old Dale Merza, a Central Michigan University student, is facing hazing charges for allegedly smearing peanut butter on the face of a classmate with a severe peanut allergy.
The student's mother said her son passed out at a fraternity house when peanut butter was rubbed on his face back in October.
Merza has pleaded not guilty but his attorney says his client will be found innocent once the facts come out.
The Big Rapids Board of Education is considering a bond proposal for the November 2017 election. Superintendent Tim Haist says they've been thinking about it for a while.
“It's something that we've been looking at for the past couple years, ever since our strategic planning sessions a couple years ago. We knew that there were a lot of great things that we're doing, but we also know that there are some areas that we need to continue to improve.”
However, Haist says community feedback is important and they want to hear from the Big Rapids school community before deciding what to include in the proposal. He encourages everyone who is interested to share their thoughts and opinions at one of a series of community listening sessions on:
April 18 at 6:00 pm at Brookside Elementary
April 18 at 7:30 pm at Riverside Elementary
April 26 at 6:00 pm at the Big Rapids Middle School
April 26 at 7:30 pm at the Big Rapids High School
For those who cannot attend, Haist says you can go online to brps.org and select the Community Input link to provide feedback or you can call the Superintendent's Office at 231-796-2627.
Last week Lansing declared itself a sanctuary city despite threats from the Trump administration that it could cost them federal dollars.
Now the Michigan and Lansing Chambers of Commerce want Lansing City Council to rescind the resolution. They say it sends the wrong message to businesses, residents, and potential investors.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department plans to follow through on the threat of cutting federal funds to sanctuary cities.
Tax Day is April 18 and the National Priorities Project has released its annual breakdown on where your tax dollars go. They say 29 percent goes to healthcare, 23 percent goes to the military, and 13 percent pays down interest on the national debt. But what about education? Spokesperson Lindsay Kosharian says that part of the federal budget is relatively tiny.
"And then, when you see that 3 cents of every federal dollar is being spent on education – and that includes everything, from kindergarten up through college – you can easily ask questions about whether the way that we’re using our tax dollars matches what Americans say they want the government to be doing."
President Trump’s proposed budget for discretionary spending includes a big increase for defensea nd he has asked for a $2 billion down-payment on a new border wall, which is expected to cost $25 billion total.
Koshgarian notes the President wants to slash funding in a number of areas.
"For instance he proposed cutting the Department of Education by 14 percent. And he proposed cutting the Department of the Interior, which includes the National Park Service, by 12 percent."
Last year, the entire federal budget was about $4 trillion and it's expected to be similar for next year. Congress will take up President Trump’s proposed budget over the next few months and craft a final budget by the fall.
Fund raising is big business and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says less than half of the funds raised by professionals in Michigan go to the charities they're meant for.
Schuette's annual Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report says that in 2016, 61 percent of funds raised by professional fundraisers in Michigan went to the fundraisers themselves.
While hiring professional fundraisers and fundraising counsel may benefit certain charities, some professional fundraisers leave little of the donations for the intended charity, with some telemarketers pocketing 85 to 90 percent of the donated funds.
Schuette notes most fundraising is done over the phone and residents should ask if the caller works directly for the charity or is a professional fundraiser, ask how much of the donation actually goes to the charity, don’t feel pressured to make an immediate donation, and remember you can always hang up.
A Grand Rapids area man is pleading no contest to a drunk driving accident that killed a Mecosta County teen last November.
This morning in Kent County Circuit Court, 40-year old Ted Vandenbrink pleaded no contest to a felony charge of operating while intoxicated in connection to a three car accident that killed a 17-year old Morley girl.
Police say on November 13th, Vandenbrink was traveling west on 6 Mile Rd NW when he went through a stop sign and struck a mini van which then collided with another pickup truck.
The driver of the mini van, 49-year old Beth Cook and her passengers 53-year old Randell Cook received minor injuries while 17-year old Meghan Cook died at the scene from her injuries.
Vandenbrink faces up to 15 years in prison when he's sentenced next month.
As the permit process continues for Nestle Waters to increase pumping capacity from a well near Evart, the Osceola Township Board will meet to see if the bottle water company's pumping station will meet zoning requirements.
Nestle wants to increase its water pumping capacity to 400 gallons per minute at a well near Evart.
To help meet the high demand to its toll-free call center that typically comes as the tax deadline nears, the Internal Revenue Service is extending its customer service hours.
The first two weeks of April are typically some of the busiest times of the year for IRS telephone assistors, as they field thousands of calls per hour. The IRS reminds taxpayers that most questions can be answered online by using the numerous tools available at IRS.gov.
The IRS toll-free telephone lines will be available Saturday, April 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (callers’ local time) and Saturday, April 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (callers’ local time). The toll-free line is 800-829-1040.
Please remember that all IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers now require an appointment for most services. Instead of going directly to a local IRS office with a tax issue, taxpayers should call 844-545-5640 to reach an IRS representative, who is trained to either help them resolve it or schedule an appointment to get them the help they need.
The tax deadline of Tuesday, April 18, is later this year due to several factors. The usual April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would give taxpayers until the following Monday to file. However, Emancipation Day, a holiday in the District of Columbia, is observed on Monday, April 17, giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day to file. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an automatic six-month extension will have until Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, to file.
Another recall involving Takata air bags, this time from Honda.
The automaker is recalling 37,000 2003 two-door Accords to check if replacement air bags contain the recalled Takata inflators that may have been installed prior to the massive Takata recalls last year.
The inflators made by Takata are blamed in at least 16 deaths and more than 180 injuries worldwide.
The Mecosta County Park Commission is seeking public input regarding current park operations and future improvements.
County residents and non-resident visitors are being encourage to participate in the 2017 Parks Improvement Survey.
Superintendent Jeff Abel says the survey helps ensure that the priorities of the Park Commission are in line with the priorities of the community members.
The survey is available at www.MecostaCountyParks.com.
Residents around Pickerel Lake in Mecosta County are upset over a possible tax increase on their property. At issue is an uncertain upgrade and required inspections of a lake level control dam. The county wants to impose a special assessment district for property owners around the lake but Grant Township Supervisor Randy Vetter says they don't like it.
“The residents are outraged. There's no estimate on cost for engineering or construction of an upgrade, they're not interested. The simple structure that is there has worked fine since 1974.”
Vetter brought the issue to the attention of the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners at Thursday's regular meeting. He adds that a petition drive has been started to abolish the assessment district or the dam since the DNR has in their own flood control gate upstream from the lake.
However, the dam is used to enforce a court ordered one foot differential in the lake level from April to November of each year and Mecosta County Drain Commissioner Jackie Fitzgerald says the dam requires periodic inspections.
“All dams, all county lake level control structures – and we have seven of them – have to have an inspection by a registered engineer every three years. The Pickerel Lake dam is the last lake level control structure that doesn't have a special assessment district around it to pay for maintenance and repair and inspections of it.”
She also believes the dam is unsafe because it consists of a series of wooden planks that have to be manually lifted in and out by people who wade out into the lake.
“A thought of mine is to have a crank system from the top because it's dangerous – you have to have waders, you have to get in there and pry the boards up and knock them down in some way.”
Any improvement project for the dam has not yet reached the planning stage because that would require an engineering study for the dam and a nearby roadway.
“That would be a project with the road commission and I don't have anything right now. So it stays as it is, but costs do incur for the inspection,” says Fitzgerald.
Ironically, Fitzgerald says the dam was originally requested by property owners around the lake.
“The structure itself is a court ordered lake level [dam] petitioned by property owners back in the early '70s to be created.”
In 2012, the County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution granting the Drain Commission the right to petition for special assessment districts to help pay for dam upgrades and maintenance. Fitzgerald is currently working on a way to fairly assess the property owners, However, she says, a big problem is the Department of Natural Resources which owns much of the lake property.
The future of public broadcasting is in question under President Trump's proposed federal budget. PBS spokesperson Joyce Slocum says federal funding makes up as much as 40 or 50-percent of the budget for rural stations.
"Those stations are really critical to the system because frequently they're in areas where there may not be another source of news that's free on air. They are sometimes in areas where people don't have other methods to handle emergency situations."
Slocum shared a story of how a station in Texas, was used by first responders to communicate with residents about a dangerous wildfire when the phone system failed.
Broken out per citizen in the U.S., funding for public broadcasting costs each person $1.35 a year.
A Cadillac couple is being accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl with mental disabilities.
Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore says Alton Graham is accused of having sex with the 17-year-old girl, while Shauna Graham faces charges of 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct and giving the teen alcohol.
If convicted, Alton Graham could face life in prison for being a four-time habitual offender. Shauna Graham faces two years two years in jail.
A Mecosta County man will be going to trial on jury tampering and obstruction of justice charges.
Keith Wood had appealed his case all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, but but earlier this week the Court declined to hear Wood’s argument.
Wood was arrested in 2015 after distributing material about jury nullification outside the Mecosta County Courthouse.
The case is expected to go to trial in Mecosta County’s 77th District Court next month.
The “jaws of life” were used to free an Edmore woman who was trapped in her SUV following an accident in Mecosta County Thursday.
Deputies say the 21-year old driver was traveling on Jackson Rd east of 30th Ave in Millbrook Twp; that's where she lost control on the slushy road, left the road and struck a tree.
Emergency crews freed the Edmore woman from her vehicle and took her to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Beginning next week, a stretch of Mackinaw Trail in Osceola County between 11 mile and 14 mile will be getting reconstructed.
Officials say once the project starts, the road will be closed to traffic.
A detour will be set up using US-131 between 11 and 14 Mile Roads.
Officials hope to finish the project by May 15.
It looks like old man winter is not rearing his head one final time.
The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids has canceled the winter storm watch for Mecosta County and the entire west central michigan area.
However, a river flood warning is still in affect for Mecosta and Osceola Counties until 2pm Saturday.
In a follow up to Tuesday's story about Payless ShoeSource filing for bankruptcy, the company has confirmed 10 stores in Michigan will be shutting down, including one in Big Rapids and one in Cadillac.
Officials say the announced closure of 400 stores in the U.S. And Puerto Rico could affect as many as 2,000 employees.
Payless has 4,400 stores in 30 countries that employ nearly 22,000 people.
Shoe chain Payless ShoeSource is filing for bankruptcy.
Officials say it will immediately close nearly 400 stores in an effort to reduce its debt by almost 50 percent.
CEO Paul Jones blames an increasing shift by shoppers to buy online or at discount stores like T.J. Maxx.
It's unclear if the Big Rapids store will be one of those shutting its doors.
State Rep. Michele Hoitenga is inviting residents of Wexford, Mecosta and Osceola counties to her office hours for the month of April.
Hoitenga says she wants everyone to come and share their concerns and ideas because it makes her a more effective representative.
You can come and talk with her on:
Friday, April 7 at Jennifer’s Roundabout Restaurant, 4642 N. M 37 in Mesick, from 8 to 9 a.m.;
Friday, April 7 at Lisa’s Grille, 112 E. Church St. in Tustin, from 11 a.m. to noon.
Monday, April 24 at William’s Café, 19636 N. 30th Ave. in Barryton, from 8 to 9 a.m.; and
Monday, April 24 at Moe-Z-Inn, 249 N. Cass St. in Morley, from 11 a.m. to noon.
If you can't meet up with her, she encourages people to call her at (517) 373-1747, or email her at MicheleHoitenga@house.mi.gov.
The National Transportation Research Group, or TRIP, says despite increasing fuel taxes and registration fees in Michigan, it's still not enough to fix all the roads in the state.
TRIP Director of Policy and Research Rocky Moretti says although many road projects can be completed under the current $1.2 billion plan, some $200 million dollars more would be needed to address what he calls one of the largest pavement challenges in the nation.
The Michigan Department of Transportation says 20 percent of the most critical roadways in the state are in poor condition.