by TERRY KONKLE President, Rockford Area Historical Society Let’s begin this week with an answer to a trivia question that I asked two weeks ago. The most recent Rockford High School sport to win a state championship was girls volleyball. The Rams squad won the state title on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. This was the first time in our school history that girls volleyball accomplished the feat. I will ask another trivia question later in this column. Last week I mentioned some changes that had occurred on the north side of East Bridge Street since the time I lived there with my family in the early 1960s. This week we move across the street to the south side and the Krause Memorial Library. Many people know of the building as it looks today, but in 1960 it was different. It was smaller, with the main entrance facing Bridge Street. The entrance is still there but not used because the expanded building has a new entrance location on an angle at the corner of Bridge and Monroe. A postcard of the original library shows the building and surrounding area as I remember it in 1960, and I have been told that the location had not changed much since the library was built for the people of Rockford in 1936 by G. A. Krause in honor of his wife and daughter. A closer look at the postcard shows a house in the left background. It is facing Bridge Street but is gone now. It was torn down along with the house east of it when the Rockford United Methodist Church expanded a few years ago. How about the statue of the Union soldier? That monument was moved when the library expanded and now has a new home by the Community Cabin on Monroe Street next to Rum Creek. The tree to the right of the monument is gone. About the time we moved here, Rockford Library hired a lady to serve as an assistant librarian. Later, she became the head librarian, and I can vividly recall seeing her walking to work early in the day and then back to her home on Dayton Street after her hours were over. She made the library a “great place,” where […]
April 26 2012
All full-time DPW, police now qualified firefighters, medical responders by BETH ALTENA The writing was on the wall when Rockford was forced to lay off one of the city’s full-time firefighters two years ago. When police Lieutenant Scott Mazur retired a year ago, his position was not filled. With revenues to the city in a continual decline in recent years due to reduced state revenue sharing, declining property values and a flat new construction economy, and other financial concerns, unusual measures were called for. “This is a significant change—a different service model to provide more efficient services and savings,” said former Rockford Chief of Police Dave Jones, who now has a new enhanced role and title as Chief of the Department of Public Safety, overseeing both law enforcement and firefighters. Jones said Rockford City Manager Michael Young and he came up with a bold new plan to maintain services to the citizens of Rockford in a more efficient way. It called for months of training of all Rockford police officers and also all Department of Public Services employees to become certified medical responders and firefighters. No one else in the state of Michigan has a model like this. “It is a whole new structure,” said Jones. Since April 7, all medical calls for assistance have been answered by law enforcement officers, who have undergone the months of training needed to qualify for their new role. Their patrol vehicles have all been outfitted to also serve as first responder medical units. At the conclusion of this plan, Chief Reus will be the fire marshal, one firefighter will be crossed trained as a police officer and assigned to the enforcement division, and one position will be eliminated sometime next year. This will restructure the fire service division to have only paid on-call firefighters with no full-time city employees assigned to just the fire service. With the new plan, all enforcement division and public services division employees will be considered full-time firefighters. Savings to the city come from on-duty law enforcement responding to medical and fire calls during the night rather than paid on-call firefighters. In addition, training can take place during the workday rather than in overtime hours in the evening. The model includes a complete restructuring […]
by CINDY M. CRANMER Photos courtesy of WZZM 13 Rockford school officials and police stated that a tire did not break loose from a Rockford bus as witnesses and early media agencies originally reported during a three-vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman. “A car struck the front tire of the bus, knocking off the lug nuts on the front tire, traveling down the side of the bus, scraping it and then hitting one of the outside tires and knocking it off,” said Dr. Michael Shibler, Rockford Public Schools’ superintendent. Photo courtesy of WZZM 13 According to Shibler, the driver of the white Ford Taurus was ticketed and responsible for crossing the centerline during the early morning accident that ended up involving three vehicles on Thursday, April 19. Early media reports and witness accounts stated that a tire came off the car, but police clarified that this was not the case. The bus was eastbound on Belding Road when the Taurus, which was westbound, drifted into the eastbound lanes and struck the front bus tire and side of the bus. Shibler said the car spun around colliding head-on with the eastbound vehicle, a Volkswagen Passat, which was traveling behind the bus. The driver of the Passat was taken to the hospital by AeroMed helicopter, Shibler said. Officials confirmed that the woman’s condition had stabilized as of Monday, April 23. The woman’s child who was restrained in a car seat was taken to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital as a precaution to be checked out but was not injured. The bus had not yet picked up students, so there were no children on the bus. The bus driver was not hurt in the accident, which occurred near the Bostwick Lake Inn. The driver of the Taurus had minor injuries. The accident occurred on Belding Road near Kitson Road shortly before 8 a.m. as the bus driver was preparing to pick up the first students. “A tire did come off the bus, but only after the car sideswiped the bus and hit the back tire,” Shibler said. “The driver of the white car was ticketed. The driver of the bus was not ticketed or at fault. The bus driver was totally in the right and there were no […]
by BETH ALTENA Todd Pell was thrilled at his prospects a year ago when he purchased Rockford Towing and faced a future as his own boss. Recently, he came very near to losing his life in that new business. “I’m probably still in shock,” Pell reported, just hours from an accident scene where he lost his newest vehicle to a crash that could have killed him. Pell had just stepped from the space between his new 2011 Ford 550 tow truck and the car he was rescuing from a ditch near Harvard Road and 18 Mile. It was barely 7:30 a.m. and he was doing his job when the tremendous sound of the collision filled the air. “You can’t believe how loud it is,” Pell said. An oncoming vehicle, racing along at an estimated 55 mph on the back road hit his truck head-on without any evidence that the brakes had been applied. “He never slowed down or moved over,” Pell reported of the teenage driver who hit him and did sustain injuries. The driver’s car hit Pell’s truck head-on, totaling it and causing it to smash into the car which Pell had seconds before been hooking up to pull from the ditch. The impact was horrific, Pell described. “It was a close call for me,” he said. “It was five seconds or three feet and I would have been killed.” Pell hopes the incident will remind people that tow trucks are emergency vehicles, just like ambulance and police, and drivers need to slow down and pay attention when they see them on a scene. According to Commander Chris McIntyre of the Michigan State Police, Rockford Post, being on the road—whether from traffic stops or at accidents—is a most dangerous part of the jobs of first responders. He said when officers die in the line of duty, it is more often by being struck by careless drivers than in other situations. Pell is grateful that this close call was just that, and hopes that sharing his story will remind drivers to slow down and be careful when approaching any emergency vehicle on the road.
Papermill long considered a dangerous fire to fight by BETH ALTENA Plainfield Fire Chief Dave Peterson said his officers found a small fire in the Childsdale Papermill structure on Tuesday, April 10 but were successful in stopping the blaze from taking hold in the 100-year-old mill. A dozen first responder vehicles, including five pumper trucks from Plainfield, firefighter vehicles, Michigan State Police and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department quickly responded after a passerby called the township with report of smoke visible from the buildings just after 3 p.m. “They found a small fire in the downstairs and are putting it out with water,” Peterson stated. Firefighters have long considered the building a dangerous one in which to fight fire, considering its age, condition and size. BridgeWay Community Church has been in the process of raising money to purchase and renovate the mill. Brian Pankratz, lead elder for BridgeWay, said firefighters were unable to pinpoint the source of the fire. “They are not one hundred percent sure what happened,” he stated. “We are very grateful. The firefighters did a great job putting out what was there.”