Kent County

New Facility for Kent County Sheriff Department Mounted Unit

November 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

Rockford to be home to Kent County Sheriff MountedDivision The public is invited to the dedication ceremony and open house of New Mounted Unit facility located in Rockford. The ceremony will be hosted by Kent County Sheriff Larry A. Stelmaat the facility’s location at 4687 Kroes Street NE (NW corner of Wolverine Blvd. and Kroes St./East of Rockford HS) on Thursday, November 17, at 3:30 p.m. Mounted Unit has completed Phase 1 of the capital project, including renovation of a century old barn with temporary stables for the horses, three stall garage for tack and storage, 3.5 acre pasture with new fencing and outdoor training arena. The horses of the Mounted Unit have been displaced since the closing of the Honor Camp in northern Kent County in early 2011. Phase 2 and 3 of the private, donor-led project are scheduled for 2012 and designs include an indoor training arena, riding trails, new stables, administrative offices, classroom and locker rooms and an interactive/ observation area for the public. “This is really exciting news,”said City Manager Michael Young during the regular City Council meeting Monday, November 14. “It will be good to have them so close.”  

Public invited to nature event at Pickerel Lake Park

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

by REBECCA FINNERAN                       In my book, few things can top a morning stroll around Kent County’s Pickerel Lake-Fred Meijer Nature Preserve. Dewey cattails, the occasional call of an owl, and graceful, white swans slipping through the unbroken mirror of water are things we sometimes equate with a spring-fed, mountain lake. Unknown to many, this Kent County park is a jewel that is right here in our own back yard! Located just a few miles from Grand Rapids, many folks come to Pickerel to enjoy nature but few really know the hidden treasures that lie within its boundaries. To celebrate this pristine beauty and lend a helping hand at educating the public on bringing nature to your own back yard, an event has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. “Discover Pickerel Lake!” is a cooperative project between Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and Kent County Parks and is organized by a cadre of nature-lovin’ volunteers by both groups. According to Ginny Wanty, coordinator for the MSU Extension “Master Naturalist” program, anyone who loves the out-of-doors will want to partake in this event which is designed for families and folks of all ages. While hiking around the two-mile loop at the water’s edge, kids can complete an “eye spy” scavenger hunt as well as listen to 12 narrated stations with adult volunteer educators. Kids who complete their scavenger hunt will be entered into a drawing for a free “Discover!” t-shirt. Wanty said that folks will be delighted to observe waterfowl, woodland birds and wild turkey, chipmunks, deer and, yes, even beaver during this event. “Few people realize that beaver are a part of the Bear Creek watershed, let alone are found so close to home,” Wanty said. The beaver’s elusive nature makes them hard to see during the daylight hours but in the fall, you may see them sliding through the water on a quiet morning or early evening. Evidence of the beaver activity is quite a sight, said Wanty, with those characteristic “pointed” tree stumps and large twig shelters at the south end of the lake. Besides home to beaver, the post depression era system of dams and engineered […]

Zoo Society announces campaign for tigers, bears, more

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

The John Ball Zoological Society recently announced they will be bringing tigers back to Grand Rapids with the help of a generous community. The fund drive is Phase II of the Zoo Society’s “Restore the Roar” Capital Campaign. The projects include the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation Funicular and Forest Realm, the Bissell Tree House (announced earlier this year), new Amur Tiger Exhibit, new Grizzly Bear Exhibit, Visitor Welcome Center, and a Central Services/Commissary facility. This major zoo expansion and renovation breaks ground this summer with expected completion of the Funicular, Tree House, Welcome Center, and Central Services facility in 2012, completion of Grizzly Exhibit in 2013, and completion of Tiger Exhibit in 2014. The campaign began in 2010 with the largest contribution in the history of the zoo of $5 million from Bea Idema and the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation. The Zoo Society is pleased to announce as of June 23, 2011, the campaign has received $10,250,000 in pledges and contributions. A spokesperson for the Wege Foundation said of the expansion, “Peter M. Wege and the Wege Foundation Trustees support this expansion because they know introducing children to wildlife teaches future generations to be good stewards of the planet.” This announcement kicks off a community-wide effort to raise $1,750,000 to complete the expansion/renovation projects. The zoo’s last tiger was moved to another zoo in 2009. The decision was made not to bring tigers back to the zoo until a larger more natural exhibit could be built for them. The new Amur Tiger Exhibit will anchor the west end of the hilltop expansion with the Idema Funicular and Bissell Tree House anchoring the east end. The tigers will have a green habitat nestled into a natural bowl in the hillside. The Grizzly Bear Exhibit will be a total renovation of the grizzly bear/dall sheep exhibits. Those exhibits were built in the 1960s and remain in the heart of the zoo. Now, however, the two older exhibits will be totally demolished and one bold and beautiful grizzly exhibit constructed. The new exhibit will double the space for the zoo’s two rescued grizzlies and give visitors a feeling for the grizzlies’ lair. The Welcome Center will add restrooms and other amenities for the zoo’s guests. A new […]

Disaster training brings emergency to life

July 7, 2011 // 0 Comments

First responders drill for worst-case scenario by BETH ALTENA No one ever hopes to use the skills they develop under federal guidelines by the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), but if the worst happens, they will be ready. Area first responders—police, fire, paramedics and more—fight explosions, toxic disasters, potentially fatal injuries and other potential catastrophes to be ready for anything. Sue Barthels arranges the volunteers and rescue personnel who have been rotating through potentially dangerous industry locations for years. She said it is a chance to practice skills and review protocols in potentially hazardous materials situations. “It is the equivalent of running a drill,” she described. This year’s spring practice was held at Reisters Grower Services in Sparta. Emergency responders included Rockford Ambulance. Barthels said the practices are required by federal mandate and are taken very seriously. She said every site in Kent County that houses potentially hazardous materials has been evaluated and has an emergency plan in place should a disaster occur. Reisters provides farm chemicals and so qualifies as a potential hazardous material site. LEPC conducts the drills once a year and has been since 1989. This spring’s took place in May and included 110 people including 10 volunteer “victims.” The victims are coached prior to the incident, and include make-up and “injuries” consistent with the disaster scenario. Barthels said the training has come in use in the county for several hazardous materials incidents, including issues with refrigeration ammonia that resulted in no injuries. In Kent County there are 243 locations that have extremely hazardous materials, and LEPC has a plan for every one. The Hazardous Materials Response Team operates out of Grand Rapids, but different groups participate in the scene to hone protocol. Depending on location, local agencies participate as they would should a real incident occur. Incident training has taken place at Ten Mile Road and Alpine Avenue, and the Sparta Airport. Volunteer emergency personnel, such as members of the Civil Emergency Response Team (CERTS), the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) and others have also participated, as they would in a real emergency. “What is important here is a rural fire department got a chance to practice,” said Tom Boyle, assistant director of engineering for Kent County, who was present […]

McKay to head state organization

January 6, 2011 // 0 Comments

Rockford treasurer voted to position by peers  by BETH ALTENA  When Kim McKay hired on with the City of Rockford 14 years ago this past December, she was deputy treasurer. Today she is a woman wearing many professional hats with the local government and has been voted the next president of the Michigan Municipal Treasurers Association (MMTA). The nonprofit organization of treasurers of cities, townships and other municipalities is over 800 members strong, and McKay can’t overemphasize how much help professionally the group has offered in her tenure. Starting out as deputy, with John Strauss treasurer, McKay was promoted when Strauss took a job with Kent County. Since, McKay has been doing the work you would expect as treasurer, collecting taxes, paying bills and filling out payroll checks for the City. Unlike larger cities, a treasurer in a town the size of Rockford finds other duties falling to her hands. “Other treasurers look at me funny when I tell them some of my duties,” McKay shared. Any visitor to the well-used Community Cabin on Monroe Street may admire the color scheme, new kitchen design and décor. That was McKay’s design. She also is responsible for the open-space, visitor-friendly look of City Hall itself. “I’d love to get my hands on the old court building,” she confided. Design and decoration skills aren’t typical on a treasurer’s resume, but local government sometimes has the luxury, or necessity, of making use of the skills available in its staff. “We are all very cross-trained here,” McKay said of the City. Responding to years-long revenue and state-shared funding cuts, Rockford has been decreasing personnel through attrition and consolidation of services. But even before having to tighten its belt financially, the City made good use of talent such as McKay’s. Any stroll through downtown during months of moderate weather proves the point. McKay has for years been the designer of the floral arrangements in the seasonal pots throughout the City. “It’s been all the way down from the top,” McKay said of budget challenges. “We are still able to offer many services that other municipalities no longer can.” McKay said offering leaf pick-up is still a huge service that some may take for granted. The City also continues to be supportive […]

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