City of Rockford

Rockford firefighter graduates from Police Academy

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA “It was a challenge, especially being older. If I was in my twenties like everyone else in the class, it would have been easier,” Bob Berkstresser, 51, made the statement about a grueling 16-week, 594-hour police training academy. Berkstresser just completed the class, allowing him to join the ranks of Rockford’s relatively new Department of Public Safety as a fully trained firefighter and police officer. City Manager Michael Young described the achievement by saying, “This is one of the significant milestones we have accomplished as we move to the ultimate phase-in of the consolidation at the end of the year.” Young was talking about the consolidation of police and fire first responder with Department of Public Works employees also cross-trained as first responders. At a rollover accident in Rockford on August 22, there were 15 first responders on the scene helping to extricate a driver pinned in a rollover vehicle. The training of City of Rockford employees to take advantage of existing staff in a variety of emergency situations is the goal Young, Police Chief Dave Jones and Fire Chief Mike Reus had in mind when they planned the merger. “The majority of our calls take place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. so it only makes sense that the Department of Public Works people trained to respond to fire, police and medical,” said Berkstresser. Berkstresser said it will be a challenge for the multi-trained staff to keep up on all ongoing training that is required, since fire, medical and police all have different ongoing training requirements. For example, this week Berkstresser has to attend a two-day conference required to maintain his certification as a fire inspector. Berkstressor said the police academy, offered by Grand Valley State University over a 16-week period, wasn’t easy. A firefighter for Rockford since 1992, Berkstresser found himself learning a whole new set of skills. Prior to joining Rockford as firefighter he was an employee of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. Berkstresser included among his recent training, law, defense tactics, firearms training, physical fitness and training, court procedures, report writing, field sobriety testing, Operating While Under the Influence testing, emergency vehicle operations, high risk felony stops, domestic violence training, role playing scenarios for a […]

God rocks at Praise in the Park

August 2, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL  Sunday afternoons and evenings used to be pretty quiet in downtown Rockford. Other than White Pine Trail users and those canoeing or kayaking on the Rogue River along with the faithful addicted to Sunday evening Custard by the Dam or Rocky’s desserts, not much goes on. All that changed this summer with a series of Sunday evening concerts in Garden Club Park with a different genre of music, that being Christian themed contemporary praise music. This summer, the talented musicians and vocalists of the Praise Teams of nine Rockford community churches volunteered to showcase their God-given talents during twelve scheduled Sunday evening performances of the first “Praise in the Park” concert series. City Council member and event organizer, Rich Moll, has been more than gratified to see attendance increase during each of the seven concerts held thus far. “Rockford is a faith-based community of many church denominations that are interwoven in the eclectic mix of a community we are proud to call home,” said Moll. City Hall has received numerous calls and emails of thanks and appreciation for granting approval for an event that further adds to the quality of life we all enjoy here in Rockford. Moll is hopeful that the weekly series of “Praise in the Park” concerts will become an ongoing annual event in ensuing years. Judging from the enthusiastic response of those in attendance thus far, that shouldn’t be a problem. Your reporters were in attendance at the beautiful riverside Garden Club Park venue, a few Sundays ago, to take in the concert presented by the multi-talented Praise Team of Rockford United Methodist Church. Wow, they were as hot as the 90-degree temperature! For one hour and thirty minutes, without a break, they sang their souls out in praise of the Lord. Approximately 250 people were in attendance that evening. When you add to that the unknown numbers of trail users who stopped and were caught up by what they were witnessing and hearing, it was an inspiring summer evening indeed. Four scheduled Sunday evening concerts, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., remain. Next up on Sunday, August 5, is the team from Rockford Reformed Church. Following in ensuing weeks, will be the team from Dick Rounds, […]

City fireworks rules still apply

July 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

by MICHAEL YOUNG guest editorial I am pleased to report that we have had very few complaints/problems with the recently approved, new, state of Michigan fireworks law. With that said, there is still quite a bit of confusion regarding the implications of the new law and whether or not local ordinances still apply. The purpose of this article is to clarify some of the ambiguity in the law to and to address the City of Rockford’s ordinance. The first thing to know is that local ordinances still do apply as to the sale and use of consumer fireworks. Consumer fireworks, as defined, were previously prohibited and they include fireworks that explode or leave the ground. The State has gone on to further clarify that local ordinances also apply with respect to noise, litter and safety. Under the state law, there are 30 days within the calendar where a municipality cannot prohibit the use of consumer fireworks. The City has had a long-standing nuisance ordinance, which regulates noise complaints. We are applying this nuisance ordinance to the use of all fireworks and prohibit their use between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. So while the State does allow the use of consumer fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after all national holidays, we are still restricting their use between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. The City of Rockford has recently amended its own fireworks ordinance to restrict the use of consumer fireworks between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. on any day during the year. With the many festivals and special events we have in the City, it is not unusual to hear fireworks throughout the City and we felt it important to regulate the hours in which they can be used. For those who choose to ignite fireworks, it is important to remember that all other City ordinances apply. The most important thing is to use common sense. During these times of extreme heat, we are advising people it is simply not worth the risk and to stop the use of any and all fireworks until we return to a more normal weather pattern. We are also asking people to be respectful of other […]

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 […]

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