Individuals made Rockford what it is today by BETH ALTENA “Service is the rent we pay for out little spot on this Earth.” This attitude was exemplified in the life led by the late Lynn Gill, who along with his wife LaZelle (Zell) were the lone addition to the Rockford Area Community Endowment (R.A.C.E.) Recognition Plaza. A ceremony took place Tuesday, May 28, beginning with the R.A.C.E. annual meeting at City Hall and ending at the plaza, located on the west side of the Rogue River by the dam. Zell Gill, before a large crowd of well-wishers at the Plaza, spoke with dignity and said the chance to help Rockford become what it is today has been a great honor for herself and her late husband. A plaque with her and Lynn’s name will serve as a permanent tribute to the contributions the couple have made to Rockford. Rockford City Manager Michael Young and the Rockford Area Historical Society nominated the couple and both Young and Historical Society President Terry Konkle spoke during the ceremony. Young talked of his experience of the couple. “In 1995 when I came here, whether it was God’s will, he put me right next to the Gills,” he said. Young described how fortunate his family felt getting to know the Gills and of their kindness and generosity. He noted that when his daughters ran away from home, as kids usually do during their childhood, his girls, ages 3 and 4, ran away to the Gills’ home next door. The Gills were very active in Rockford and are people that were well known as well as universally admired. According to a biography compiled by the Historical Society, the Gills moved to Rockford in 1940. Lynn Gill passed away in March 2009, and Zell still lives in the house they built on Dayton Street. The couple lived their lives with service as a major factor in their activities. Lynn was from Big Rapids, where he graduated in 1935 as salutatorian of Big Rapids High School. He and his brother were well known as semi-pro baseball players. Lynn was inducted into the Mecosta County Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Zell was from Reed City and also had a love of sports. Both […]
June 14 2012
Michael Young, Rockford’s city manager for 17 years, had his employment contract extended one year after his recent annual city council evaluation. Young’s contract is a three-year agreement. He asked for and was given a two percent salary increase. Once again this year, the increase is in line with the City of Rockford employee groups with whom he had negotiated contracts. The council rated Young’s overall performance as “excellent.” A city manager wears many hats, including managing the city’s diverse staff and work flow; controlling the city’s budget and financial position; interacting and serving the public; and communicating with the city council. Young is able to juggle all of the hats. The council fully supports Young for his ability to successfully work with the several and diverse community groups, governmental agencies, and local businesses located in Rockford. As the council looks around the city to contemplate changes that have happened during Young’s 17-year tenure, they deem it impressive. Mayor Steve J. Jazwiec stated, “I couldn’t think of a better person to represent us. He is an extremely valuable asset to our community. Michael’s influence and impact on the community are very noticeable.” All Michigan cities, townships, villages and counties are encountering difficult financial situations. Rockford, under Young’s leadership, has been able to do two things that are exemplary. First, it has been able to maintain a healthy fund balance while keeping the tax rate at 10.9 mills, the third lowest millage rate in the county for municipalities without a city income tax. The 2012-2013 budget as presented by Young and approved by council will ensure that continued excellent financial condition through June 2013. Second, Rockford has been able to continue to provide excellent service to the public despite a declining revenue environment and staff reductions that have totaled 25 percent over the past three years. For example, residents have continued to see improvements to the various parks throughout the city. Many of these improvements, such as the recently completed Rogue River Trail Phase Three, are due to grants written by Young. Infrastructure improvements, as proposed within the budget, have continued to occur such as this summer’s repaving of Division St. from the Bridge east to Wolverine Ave. In addition, the combining of the police, fire, […]
On May 21, 2012, the Rockford City Council unanimously approved its 2012-13 fiscal year budget. The budget as approved represents a balanced budget and maintains the City’s millage rate at 10.9 mills, the third lowest for a city in Kent County that does not levy an income tax. “Our priority was to adopt a balanced budget and maintain our millage rate. We are very pleased we were able to accomplish that in this tough economic environment,” said City Manager Michael Young. The budget also includes modest increases in water and sewer rates of two percent to cover inflationary increases over the years. In a time where many municipal budgets are facing disaster, the Rockford City Council has made the necessary changes over the years to avert fiscal distress. “Using fund balance to plug financial holes is only a temporary fix and we chose to look at the budget structure and make adjustments to meet our needs,” said Young. Over the past three years, the City has reduced its full-time staffing by 25 percent. The recent public safety merger is a prime example of making tough decisions before the City faced a budget crisis. The overall consolidation, once phased in, will save the City over $200,000 a year annually. The great thing about the City’s public safety consolidation is not only going to save the City money, but City Council believe it provides a higher level of service by using existing City resources. The fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2012, is certainly not a bare bones budget and includes some very important capital expenditures. The City has a long history of investing in its infrastructure, and this budget is no different. The City is partnering with the Kent County Road Commission to repave Ten Mile from the bridge to Wolverine Boulevard. The City also invested in new sidewalk construction as part of the Ten Mile widening project that is nearly completed. “If you let your infrastructure go, you never get it back,” said Young. So the City continues to invest year in and year out. Additional road projects include repaving Gleneagle Drive and Rockview Drive, which will commence this construction season. The City also approved a water meter change-out program, where every water meter in […]
The eighth annual Rockford Kids Triathlon featuring officers from local law enforcement, swimming, running, biking and food will take place Saturday, July 14 starting at Rockford High School. According to organizer Lt. Kevin Sweeney of the Michigan State Police, the event is geared for youngsters up to age 17 with varying lengths of race in which to compete. The cost is $20 to participate and checks should be made out to Rockford Area Kids Triathlon and mailed to or dropped off at 345 Northland Drive, Rockford MI 49341. The idea behind the Triathlon is to both promote health and give officers and children a positive, fun-filled opportunity to interact. The event has been held in Rockford for the last seven years and is always a popular summer event. Officers from the Michigan State Police, Rockford Public Safety Department and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department participate in the running, swimming and biking and hang out with kids during the day-long event. The Corner Bar is donating hot dogs and there will be other refreshments available. Race A is for ages 16-17 and 14-15 and starts with a 9 a.m. swim of 200 yards in the school pool, a six-mile bike ride and a three-mile run. Race B for kids 12-13 begins at 10 a.m. with a 100-yard swim, four-mile bike ride and two-mile run. Race C is for kids 10-11 and begins at 10:30 a.m. with a 100-yard swim, four-mile bike race and two-mile run. At 11 a.m., kids ages 8-9 swim 50 yards, bike two miles and run one mile. At 11:30, kids ages 6-7 swim 50 yards, bike two miles and run one mile. Kids up to age 5 begin at noon with a pool-length swim, a 100-yard bike ride and 100-yard run. The top three finishers in each age group receive awards. Organizers remind participants to check to be sure bikes are in good working order and do require helmets to be worn during the biking portion of the event. “This event is for all children,” said Sweeney. “With good sportsmanship, everyone wins.” Proceeds benefit D.A.R.E. and the Michigan State Police Explorers program. Parents and guardians are invited to view the swim event or greet the child after and orient them to the […]
Did you know that horses are good listeners? Well, if you had been at Stone Meadow Stables in Sand Lake on Thursday, May 10, you would have seen it for yourself. The students from the Schools of Hope Reading Club in Belmont read to some horses who were wonderful listeners! The Reading Club, funded by Heart of West Michigan United Way, is for first- through third-graders who need some help with reading. It meets Monday through Thursday at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. One important part of the program is independent reading at their “just right” level. Everyday this occurs for at least 15 minutes. Well, on May 10, the students had very special partners, the kind that might say “neigh” or stomp a hoof to let you know they enjoyed the story. This is the fourth year that Stone Meadow Stables has welcomed the students. It all started when the teacher, Mary Macomber, and the students brainstormed ideas for weekly themes. When the idea of a horse week came up, Macomber contacted Carli Noffsinger, a friend and fellow church member who had a horse. She thought it would be nice if her horse, Harley, could come to see the children. Noffsinger said, “Let’s take the kids to see the horses,” and the tradition began. At the stables, the owners, Tom, Nancy and Dan Armock, and others welcomed the students with open arms. Brandi Feasel gave them a lesson on horse safety, and she also introduced them to the different ways a horse’s feet move. The children got to meet the many different types of horses at the stable. After a short fill-in-the-blank activity, they were off to read to their new friends! Each of them had picked out the books they wanted to read, and the horses loved it. The day finished with a picnic of grilled hot dogs, chips and cake provided by the Stone Meadow staff. Then it was time to say thank you, give the horses a quick carrot snack, and load onto the bus. Everyone who participated in this wonderful day had a smile on their face and stories to tell about the day the Reading Club kids read to the horses.