Consumers Energy is moving forward with plans to add new sources of renewable energy in Michigan, launching its community solar program called Solar Gardens. Solar Gardens is the first program of its kind for Consumers Energy, and customers will be able to participate. Grand Valley State University in Ottawa County and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo County are potential sites for solar facilities that could start operating next year. “We are excited to be making progress as we seek to develop new sources of renewable energy,” said Tim Sparks, Consumers Energy’s vice president for energy supply operations. “We look forward to watching Solar Gardens grow as we continue our relationship with Michigan residents to protect and preserve the environment.” Consumers Energy customers can start enrolling in the Solar Gardens program later this year. They can express interest and learn more about how to support solar energy online at www.ConsumersEnergy.com/solargardens. Consumers Energy has been active in developing renewable energy sources in Michigan. Last year, the company reached its target of generating 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources a year ahead of schedule. That includes two wind farms, one near Lake Michigan and one in the Thumb, and contracts to buy electricity generated by wind, landfill gas, anaerobic digestion and hydroelectric generation. Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.
By BETH ALTENA Rockford Public School Superintendent Dr.Michael Shibler campaigned for renewal of Rockford’s school millage, in part on the importance of having the highest level of security possible for our students and staff, and on Monday, August 10, he and the members of the Board of Education saw in person what that millage money has purchased. Of the $76 million, $11 million was earmarked for security measures at school entrances, in part in response to the past nationwide school shootings. Like law enforcement, measures to provide a safe atmosphere at schools has changed to meet the changing types of threats nationwide. Restricting access to schools has been one way districts protect students and staff. The vestibules feature shatterproof glass, which can be shot at without shattering. Cameras, the buzz-in entry system and schools locked during the school day are all part of the improved security measures allowed by the passage of the 2014 millage. “We worked with the existing space, we didn’t create new space,” Shibler said. With the exception of East and West Middle School, the entryways to schools has been standardized, so one office matches the others. All now have a vestibule where visitors enter outside the office and buzz in to staff. Dr. Shibler called this a “people trap” designed to be the location of highest security. Staff can see the visitors on a monitor, which later will be upgraded to a larger screen, and can see the visitors on the screen as well as through a shatterproof glass door. Once allowed entry into the office, the visitors can then enter the school for the purpose of their visit. In case something happens after the person is in the building, each entryway features a red “panic button” that automatically triggers all outer doors in the district to immediately lock. Prior to the construction of new vestibules throughout the district, Dr. Shibler has said he worked closely with experts in school safety, including Homeland Security, to determine what measures best secure a safe atmosphere in a district. Restricting access, in many cases, would have prevented the tragedies our nation has seen in schools since the Columbine school shooting two decades ago. Owen Ames Kimball, under Project Manager Jeremy Amshey (who also lead […]
By BETH ALTENA They came to Rockford for the second time Fridy, August 14 and Saturday, August 15 to scrimmage as helpers to our Miracle League players, meet and interact with the public and play ball against celebrities and local police and fire fighters. What they were also doing is showing their support and comradarie to other veterans who, like them, fought for our country in Iraq, Iran and Afghanastan. All physically injured in battle, resulting in amputations and other disfigurements, they play ball to prove that overcoming those injuries and the emotional toll war puts on those engaged in it, can be overcome. Rockford’s Bob Becker, himself a retired military man, put it on himself to give this team of players, all members of the national non-profit VETSports, a warm welcome to our town. The players, their families and locals who faced them at the Miracle Field on Ten Mile for a scorching Saturday of baseball, enjoyed the view of the river at Garden Club Park. A picnic of pizza, hot dogs, cake and ice cream was donated by local restaurants and stores. This is the third year of baseball by the team, who travel across the country to show support for other veterans. It is their way to fight back against the difficulties facing many veterans of recent wars. Wounded soldiers not only struggle with the physical recovery of injuries, but shocking statistics show that many face difficulties of another nature. Nationwide twenty-two veterans take their own lives every single day. Brian Belcher interviewed with the Squire prior to the game and told a very personal story of his own struggles. He was in Afghanistan on August 21, 2006 when his Humvee was struck by an anti-tank missile. It blew the vehicle up and Belcher’s body was in flames. As he struggled to put out the fire, he was shot twice. Becker lost part of one of his hands. Back in the United States Belcher had an intense period of rehabilitation. He also suffered severe Post Traumatic Stress, an affliction which still causes him to wake in the night in panic and disorientation. He heard about VETSports from another veteran with a similar story. The idea is to show veterans that there is […]
By BETH ALTENA For all we knew, our building was about to go. In the early afternoon on Tuesday, August 11, the lower level of the Squire Newspaper office filled with smoke. It smelled like an electrical fire, but the staff couldn’t identify the source. It was frightening, and the staff made the right call, the Rockford Department of Public Safety. For years we have written about the success of the combination of departments of police, fire and public works, and the quick and impressive response at the Squire during an actually emergency was proof the new system, which saves taxpayers a half million dollars a year, also provides and even better response than traditional departments. Chief Jones was there immediately and in four minutes there were three fire trucks and numerous emergency vehicles at our location. We were advised to evacuate and waited outside as fully-prepared first responders entered the building with their gear and accessories to look for hot spots in our walls, search the property where the smoke and smell was located and otherwise protect our property. You could see from the attendance that responders were from all of the combined departments. The fire fighters on the scene were the same people we just photographed preparing an emergency response in the case of an active shooter in a public school building. The people we saw in Rockford t-shirts are the Department of Public Works employees, now seasoned firefighters as well, who dropped their work on our city grounds and other duties to respond to a fire threat.’ “You wouldn’t see a response like this in even a big city,” Chief Dave Jones said. Jones noted that he was nearby and able to reach our location quickly. Officer Robinson was also close and everyone else was ready to respond if our fire had progressed. In addition to Chief Jones, who started his career as Chief of Police, and now leads the combined departments, we had Fire Marshall Mike Reus, who annually inspects buildings in Rockford to watch for dangerous practices (he found a gas-operated piece of equipment in our office dangerously stored next to the furnace one year). Newly trained Arson Inspector Jason Bradley was able to try out his new skills (we […]
The Michigan Film Office confirmed today that filming for the Paramount Pictures film “Looking for Alaska,” based on the best-selling novel by acclaimed author John Green, will come to Michigan in the fall. The project is eligible to receive an incentive of over $7 million from the Michigan Film Office (MFO) based on a projected spending of over $21 million with two-thirds to be spent directly with Michigan residents and Michigan-based vendors. Of the over 300 anticipated cast and crew hires, more than 200 are expected to be Michigan residents along with 1,718 extras among the local hires. Directed by Rebecca Thomas (Electrick Children), the NY Times best-seller is being adapted for the screen by “The Fault in Our Stars” screenwriters Scott Neutadter & Michael H. Weber. “Looking for Alaska” is produced by Temple Hill’s Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen (“Paper Towns,” “Fault in Our Stars”), along with Mark Waters and Jessica Tuchinsky (“500 Days of Summer”). Specific shooting locations in Michigan will be identified in upcoming weeks. If you are interested in seeking work as a member of the film crew, please send your resume to email@example.com On July 10, House Bill 4122 was signed into law, which eliminates the program whereby MFO may enter into new film and digital media incentive agreements. The aforementioned project was issued an executed agreement prior to the signing of the legislation. Any film or digital media project approved and issued a fully executed agreement prior to the signing of the legislation will be administered in accordance with the law. The MFO is no longer accepting applications for projects seeking incentives. MFO, established in 1979 to assist and attract production companies and promote the growth of Michigan’s film industry, will remain open and continue to promote film, television and other digital media production in the state. For more information, please visit Michigan Film Office