Beth Altena

Rockford woman wins discussion with governor

August 23, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘I wasn’t there for the lunch’ by BETH ALTENA When Rockford resident Sandra Cox includes in her preference of job openings the word “dental” because she formerly worked as a dental hygienist, employment programs include in her list of choices jobs that offer dental benefits. This is just one observation Cox was able to share with Governor Rick Snyder during a luncheon discussion of ways to help unemployed or underemployed Michiganders find work. “I wasn’t there for the lunch,” Cox shared with the Squire after her July 25 visit in Lansing. As a single parent, a woman and a person over the age of 50 in a challenging employment atmosphere in our state, Cox thought her experience very valid. “I felt I was representative of a lot of people in this economy,” she said. In late 2011, Cox entered a contest offered by Michigan Talent, the state’s online resource for those seeking jobs in the state. With over a million resumes online, her chances to win one of three spots for potential employees may have seemed very low, but Cox felt she had a good chance to win and wanted very much the contest’s main prize—a sit-down with the Governor. Cox may well represent many Michigan residents and their difficulties finding appropriate employment. She now works in manufacturing at less than 10 dollars an hour. Others who work there, like her, are qualified to offer much more to society. Cox grew up in a third-generation General Motors family and graduated summa cum laude from her high school, 16th in her class of 444. She continued her education at Ferris State University, where she was on a waiting list for dental hygienist school. Two years and still waiting, Cox attended Grand Rapids Community College and there earned an associate’s of applied arts and science in dental hygiene. While in college Cox worked two jobs, including one as a cashier at the Plainfield Meijer, eventually moving on to the corporate offices in Walker, where she worked as the corporate receptionist. At that time, Meijer had a 75 percent reimbursement rate for tuition, so she took the opportunity to return to college for a degree in business administration-marketing/sales, graduating from Grand Valley State University in 1993. In January […]

Lemonade sale hopes to give girl last wishes

August 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

Ten-year-old’s transplanted organs failing by BETH ALTENA Lily Evans would love to ride a horse, stay in a cabin with her family, have a girl party with friends and see a movie in a theater. According to her doctors, she has just six months to one year to do any of these things. Lillian Josephine Evans was  born in 2002 and diagnosed early with conditions that made her survival dependent upon a donor for a heart and double lung transplant. According to family friend Christine Leasher, Lily received the transplant five or six years ago and has been struggling with rejection ever since. “She struggled with degrees of rejection but it was controllable,” said Leasher. Now, at age 10, Lily suffers from damaged kidneys, and doctors have given her six months to one year to live. “She has a bucket list of things she would like to do,” said Leasher. As a fundraiser for the bucket list, friends of Lily will hold a lemonade sale at Ric’s Food Center, 6969 Belding Road, Saturday, August 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to Leasher, her family is hoping to raise money for Lily’s wish list of things she would like to do. “They would love to get a cabin on Lake Michigan and have a family vacation together,” Leasher said, listing some of Lily’s hoped-for events to experience. She said one of Lily’s wishes, a dog that she can actually hold and pet, has come to be in the form of a hypoallergenic Bichon Frisé. Lily’s mom, Sue Evans, said her daughter is under Hospice care already. “This will probably be her last regular summer, so we’d like to be able to do everything she wants to do. We are hoping for a little more time to be with her, to enjoy her.” Leasher said there is a post office box for donations or correspondence, since the family experienced unexpected visits of well-wishers to their home in the past, which isn’t good for Lily’s frail condition. She has to be extremely careful of exposure to germs and other things that might make her sick. “One of the things she wanted to do is have a girls party out, getting pampered with her friends and be […]

Promotions a ‘milestone step in merger’

July 19, 2012 // 0 Comments

New leadership role defined for Rockford Safety Department by BETH ALTENA A “milestone development” in a new structure designed to save the City of Rockford and its residents over $200,000 annually took place Monday, July 9 during the regular Rockford City Council meeting. Three employees were promoted to the position of lieutenant and placed as leaders in their respective divisions of the Department of Public Safety. Rockford recently implemented a merger of staff trained to respond to emergencies—cross training former Departments of Public Works (DPW), Police and Fire to respond to fire calls and other emergencies. The merger is an unusual response to a decrease in funding that all municipalities are currently facing and which will sharply fall again if the Personal Property Tax is eliminated, according to City Manager Michael Young. Young said the idea to cross train staff was thoroughly considered prior to the gradual implementation of the new structure. Former Police Chief Dave Jones, now head of the combined Department of Public Safety, said, “I feel like a proud dad tonight.” Former fire captain Dan Vincent, Officer Dave Robinson, former DPW director Jamie Davies and officer Mike Miller all accepted promotions to lieutenant and leadership of their respective divisions within the new Department of Public Safety. Vincent will lead the paid on-call firefighters for the City of Rockford; Davies will continue his leadership of the Department of Public Works staff, who are now trained firefighters; and Lt. Robinson and Miller will together lead the combined police and firefighting staff, who also are or will be cross trained as police and firefighters. The merger is unique to Rockford, where staff developed the model to make best use of men and women who are already working for the City. All DPW workers were first trained as firefighters. This saves the City money because staff already out maintaining the City, hanging the banners, working on parks, and doing the other jobs required in town, are now trained to respond to emergencies. The restructuring, described as a merger of three formerly distinct divisions of police, fire and DPW, has been working flawlessly for several months. Currently full-time firefighter Robert Berkstressor is attending a police academy, after which he will be both a trained firefighter and police […]

NKSA agreement—‘We anticipate great savings’

July 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

Townships consider cost agreements for sewer infrastructure by BETH ALTENA “What you see happening in 2012 is what we anticipated in 1997 and perhaps earlier.” During Plainfield Township’s Monday, July 2 board meeting, Plainfield Township Manager Robert Homan discussed a  proposed agreement for the North Kent Sewer Authority (NKSA) management and staff replace the Kent County DPW in providing management and operational services for the North Kent Sewage Disposal System starting October 1 of this year. The board considered aspects of an agreement which will divide up how members of the NKSA will maintain the infrastructure—pipes, motors, lift stations, etc.—which takes wastewater from residential homes and businesses in each community to the wastewater treatment plant on Coit Avenue. The City of Rockford and the townships of Alpine, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield make up the NKSA. Of the five communities that have been allied in the creation of NKSA, two, Courtland Township and the City of Rockford, would continue maintaining their individual collection systems under the terms of the agreement. Rockford has maintained its own sewer structure with their Department of Public Works for decades. Courtland Township a year ago hired a private company to maintain the sewer lines and take care of any failures of the system as they arise. However, both Rockford and Courtland  Township will participate in the agreement as NKSA partners and co-owners of those portions of the North Kent system used by more than one community. An example of this is a large sewer main that runs down Belding Road, carrying wastewater from Courtland and Cannon townships. Homan refers to the document as an addition to the original agreement creating the NKSA. An agreement with Kent County for maintenance of the sewer lines expired in 2008, and was not renewed, but the county agreed to a five-year extension to give communities time to decide how and who would be responsible for the operation of the system in the future. NKSA’s solution is to do it themselves. With a competent staff of six now managing and operating NKSA’s PARCC Side Clean Water Plant and the addition of two former county employees plus one more person, members of NKSA believe by taking the job into their own hands they will maintain better control […]

Huge trees taken down on Main, Elizabeth streets

July 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

Original plantings were to keep roads in place by BETH ALTENA  The face of Rockford changed somewhat as two old trees were removed at the corner of East Main and Elizabeth streets Monday, July 9. The pair of maples, as big as 60 to 70 feet high, were suffering from some dead wood, and according to Melissa Imhoff of Imhoff Tree Service, the homeowners were concerned because in storms and high winds branches were falling from the elderly pair. She also noted that dead wood was visible in a split in one of the two trees. “Parts of the trees are healthy, but as a whole tree, they were not healthy trees,” said Imhoff. The company spent the entire day chipping branches, cutting limbs and removing in their entirety the two trees, and Imhoff said their service includes complete removal of the trees and the tree debris, including grinding the stump. She said a job such as this one costs about $2,000. Imhoff said she wasn’t sure how old the trees were, but many of the large ancient maples that line the streets of Rockford date back to the 1850s when Rockford was still known as Laphamville. According to the late Homer Burch’s definitive book on the town’s history, “From Sawmill to City,” the long years passing, by 1855 Laphamville was rapidly expanding eastward from Smith Lapham’s 40 acres on the Rogue River. “New homes and buildings were being built haphazardly wherever convenient, with little thought to future growth as a village,” wrote Burch. He went on to describe the efforts of surveyor and engineer William Thorton as he drew up the very first ever map of the Village of Laphamville. He laid out and named all the streets of the new village from Main Street to Courtland, south to Division (Ten Mile). “Then, through his efforts, many of the new streets were lined with shade trees set out in orderly rows outside the sidewalk lines. Most of those trees were soft maples, but they also included some hard maples, poplars and elms.” The purpose of the tree planting was to ensure the streets stayed where Thorton had drawn them, rather than to deviate in other directions. Hopefully both East Main Street and Elizabeth Street […]

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