Rockford City Manager Michael Young

America’s favorite farmers market returns Saturday for encore season

May 31, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL On the wings of victory from winning the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest, the Rockford Farm Market (RFM) proudly sails into its second decade. Since its opening day, the first Saturday of June in 2002, RFM has developed a cult-like word-of-mouth following in the greater Rockford community. In many ways, it was Rockford’s best-kept secret. All that changed with the Market’s entrance last year into the prestigious farmers markets contest sponsored by the American Farmland Trust (AFT). Not only did RFM win its small market category (16-30 vendors), it also received more votes than ANY other single farm market in any category (boutique, small, medium, and large). In doing so, RFM truly could lay claim to the title “America’s Favorite Farmers Market/2011”. Recently the AFT revealed that nearly 1,700 participating farmers markets were entered into last year’s contest. A total of 90,000 votes were cast online. All the more amazing was the fact that the small city Rockford Farm Market received 6,083 votes, or in other words an incredible 6.8 percent of the total votes cast! RFM is a “Pure Michigan” farm market that celebrates and totally reflects the “farm-to-table” movement. It is all about local West Michigan farm produce. A visit to America’s Favorite Farmers Market truly rewards one with a taste of Michigan. Local regional foods simply taste better. Why? Because they are fresher, not having traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to our tables. That they are more healthful simply goes without saying. Because of the resulting media coverage in winning last year’s farm market contest, RFM found itself becoming a destination farm market for foodies and farm market affeciationados from near and far. Just as there are wine trails, there are also farm market trails and RFM now finds itself as a “must” market to visit. What boggles the mind is the fact that RFM operates without cost to its sponsor, the City of Rockford. It has no budget, no paid staff, and does not advertise in the media. Rockford City Treasurer Kim McKay somehow finds the time to organize and administer the June – October market during her already hectic work schedule. Saturday morning Market Master duties are performed by volunteers from the […]

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 […]

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 […]

Rockford’s Officer Dave Robinson promoted to sergeant

January 26, 2012 // 0 Comments

Recognition is culmination of newly created Leadership Development Program by BETH ALTENA A Rockford police officer’s promotion to sergeant is a testimony to his command of his responsibilities, community involvement and contribution to the success of the Enforcement Division of the Rockford Public Safety Department (formerly the Rockford Police Department), but is also the culmination of a new program of leadership within the department. “This is something different than anyone else, better than anyone else,” commented City Manager Michael Young of a new police leadership program which differs from the traditional system promotion as the result of testing and years on the job. Members of the Enforcement Division—supervisors, command staff and Chief Jones—spent the last nine months, in nine work sessions, learning about and developing a Leadership Development Program similar to the one in place at Amway. It requires learning about every aspect of city government, from the structure of the City under its charter, to the responsibilities of City Council members, the City budget and process, grant writing, receiving and giving feedback, human resources, and managing change. “We have faced a great deal of change in the City,” Jones noted. The process is geared to cultivate future leadership in the department. Officer Dave Robinson, with a powerful resume in police work and leadership, was recognized during the Monday, Jan. 9 City Council meeting with a promotion to sergeant. According to Chief Jones, Robinson is the perfect example of an officer with all the credentials to qualify for this recognition and honor. “His resume, frankly makes me a little envious,” Jones said of Robinson’s career history. The 18-year police veteran has spent the last 11 years on the Rockford force. He has become well known for his community policing efforts, working with Neighborhood Watch groups and organizing the City’s National Night Out program. Currently the Rockford D.A.R.E. officer, Robinson now takes on additional command responsibilities. Robinson received his education and training from Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University. He was first hired with the Greenville Department of Public Safety in 1993, where he was responsible for developing the first Field Training program in Greenville. He received the Distinguished Service award there in 1996. Robinson was hired by the City of Rockford in 2000. […]

Local leaders report on state of community

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

Providing more with less, looking to the future a common thread by BETH ALTENA  Representatives from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, schools, City of Rockford, Kent County, the State House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate spoke Monday, Dec. 12, at Rockford High School, presenting a variety of opinions about the state of our community. A common theme of looking ahead to face challenges of our state and country as well as accomplishments achieved seemed to run through the discussions. Rockford’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler spoke first, describing the district’s work on long- and short-term goals. He explained that in his early years with Rockford, he helped establish a Ram Action Model for Success (RAMS), now in its eighth cycle of three-year comprehensive plans. He said each RAMS plan takes into account the opinions of residents across the demographic spectrum—from empty-nesters, business people, seniors, parents of school-age children, etc.—who took surveys, including answering questions and providing narratives. Shibler said the district began the process in 1989 because the school leadership felt it was important for the community to decide what is important to the district. He said despite increasing financial challenges, the RAMS has helped the district complete 96 to 97 percent of the identified goals. He pointed out that Rockford Public Schools is a base-foundation district—among those schools in Michigan who receive the lowest level of funding per student. Today, he said, Rockford receives $7,046 per student, compared to $7,300 per student the district annually received in 2008. He said in 2012, cuts may bring the per-student funding for the district to $6,846. Despite continued lower finances, Shibler reported that Rockford is fortunate to have “a performance school district.” Rockford and East Grand Rapids are the only two districts in Kent County to have all schools receive As in state evaluation, and the only large district in the state of Michigan to receive the all-A recognition. In 1994 Rockford became the only school in the state to offer a guaranteed diploma—students who fail to be successful in jobs that require high-school level skills can return to receive additional education at no charge. This year, 50 juniors received a 30 or higher on their ACT tests, and the Rockford marching band earned the […]

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