Beth Altena

EPA tannery investigation—‘There is no emergency here’

May 3, 2012 // 0 Comments

Contaminants found in multiple test sites on Wolverine property by BETH ALTENA  About a hundred residents, including city officials and Wolverine Worldwide representatives, attended a public meeting held jointly by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on Tuesday, April 24 at the Rockford Freshman Center. A presentation by a team of four representatives of the environmental agencies detailed the background of their investigation, where the testing stands to date, what possible future outcomes of the process may be, and answered questions well after the 9 p.m. expected close of the meeting. Comments from the public regarding the situation were about evenly mixed among those supporting Wolverine in their actions in removing the former tannery and those who appeared skeptical of the company’s actions or worried about contamination. Dave Novak, community involvement coordinator of the Superfund Division of the EPA, began the evening’s presentation, introducing the other representatives. “We are looking for conclusions based on good science, not speculation,” he stated. “We have a great deal of information in a relatively short period of time. We are letting good science lead us on our journey.” He then gave the floor to Naria Nunez of the EPA. Nunez said the EPA was contacted by a citizens’ petition June 21, 2011 describing concerns over releases during the demolition of the former tannery at 123 N. Main Street, Rockford. She said the petition indicated the demolition was of community concern and included photographs of discolored water running off the property and questions about the past use of chromium at the property. The EPA decided to investigate the site, and began testing in October of last year. Nunez said preliminary testing results found some contamination with potential of offsite contact. The investigation is still underway and is in the preliminary stages. At any time the EPA could decide no further response is necessary; could call for removal of contaminates or could refer the investigation to another government program. The EPA could also continue to investigate and at the end of the process could rank the site based on a system called a Hazardous Ranking System. This is an evaluation of the property based on evaluations of groundwater, surface water, air, ground, or […]

Courtland Township home destroyed in afternoon blaze

May 3, 2012 // 0 Comments

Fire chief believes garage refrigerator source by BETH ALTENA A fire that may have started with a garage refrigerator destroyed a home and killed the family dog, according to Courtland Township Fire Chief Mickey Davis. A 911 call at 4:32 p.m. Friday, April 27 brought firefighters to a home at 9110 Whitall Avenue. “The garage was pretty much down and the fire had gone to the attic of the home,” said Davis. He said there were several teenage boys in the home at the time the fire started and one had attempted to put the blaze out with a water hose. “He was pretty scratched up and was treated by Rockford Ambulance at the scene.” The fire in the garage was fueled by the fact that the garage door was slightly open, creating a wind tunnel effect that increased the ferocity of the flames. “The house is still standing but it’s probably a total loss,” Davis said. “As far as content, some of the downstairs maybe salvageable but if it was upstairs it was toasted.” Davis said he doesn’t know what might have caused the refrigerator to catch fire, speculating that it could have been a problem with the plug or a mouse could have  chewed on a wire. “If people have older refrigerators or freezers, they probably shouldn’t, because they use so much juice,” said Davis, “but I’ve never seen one cause a fire before. This is a first for me.”

Spring taste of Ric’s Saturday, May 5

May 3, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘We almost have too many vendors who want to be involved’ by BETH ALTENA Expect over 50 vendors offering free delicious samples this Saturday at the Spring Taste of Ric’s at Ric’s Food Center, 6969 Belding Road from noon to 4 p.m. One lucky visitor will receive dozens of delightful samples of deli, meat, grocery and more—a Treger Grill, valued at over $700, will be given away during a free drawing, which will take place after the end of the Spring Taste of Ric’s event. “We almost have too many vendors who want to be involved in this,” said Dave Brickner, store manager. Brickner said he looks forward to each of the store’s departments to line up four or five vendors to offer free samples, but more like seven or eight manage to get an invite. This enthusiasm is wonderful for shoppers who turn out for the twice-a-year Taste of Ric’s, but become a little problematic logistically. “It’s probably hardest in the meat department where they have such a narrow corridor to set up in,” explained Brickner. Brickner said the event compliments the anniversary of the store opening four years ago, but is a customer appreciation day as well as a chance to show people how much the store has to offer. “We are so grateful and happy for the support the community has shown us,” Brickner said. “Our customer base is growing all the time. We couldn’t be happier. We had such high hopes when we opened four years ago and then the economy took a dive. It’s probably in part a matter of time, people have learned that we aren’t ordinary. Our customer base is growing every year, but also further out as word gets out we are a pretty special store.” Brickner said it is the special events his staff plans for—one day weekly specials, the taste events, holidays such as the upcoming Mother’s Day—that add to the store’s appeal. “Mother’s Day is a really big holiday here,” he noted. “The special dinners people prepare and have a big family gathering, for us it is almost as big as Easter.” Weekly wine and beer-tastings are another example. Each Saturday (with the exception of May 5 because of the Taste of Ric’s) from […]

Big Green Egg demos, tastings at Grillapalooza

May 3, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA “There is nothing else like them,” said Floyd Havemeier of Herman’s Boy about the Big Green Egg. Havemeier donated a Big Green Egg prize package worth at least $1,250 to help the Rockford Area Historical Society raise funds for a new museum slated for the building that formerly housed the Rockford court. A few tickets remain of the only 200 to be offered with a $25 tax deductible donation to the museum fund. Enjoy a day of demonstrations about just what can be done with one of these unique cooking devices during the annual Grillapalooza at Herman’s Boy, located at 220 Northland Drive. Grillapalooza takes place Saturday, May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) beginning at 10 a.m. with Havemeier’s grandson Michael demonstrating “Breakfast on the Grill” with a Cinco de Mayo theme. Havemeier said Grillapalooza will be a fun event with all sorts of grilling demonstrations and tasting. The day’s highlights will include tastings of items cooked with a new line of spices developed by his son Brian. The coffee-based flavorings have been a work in process for years and a “secret” ingredient used at many fine-dining restaurants. This chef’s secret weapon makes a world of difference on beef, pork, chicken and seafood. The Big Green Egg prize includes the large-size Egg grill, the nest that holds it, an instructional DVD, accessories and free classes on grilling. “We’ve sold fourteen in the last ten days,” Havemeier said of the product. For more information or to donate to the museum fund, stop by Herman’s Boy during business hours.

Rockford models new money-saving safety structure

April 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

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 […]

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