September 13 2012

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 […]

‘Pure Michigan’ tale of two bridge walks

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Labor Day morning found the Hills in Mackinaw City to again participate in this year’s 55th annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk. This is a tradition we began many years ago and plan on continuing for as long as we’re able to walk or can find somebody willing to push us across in a wheelchair (as many do). As usual, we were on one of the first school buses transporting walkers across from Mackinaw City to the walk’s origin in St. Ignace in the U.P. “eh”. We stepped off promptly at 7 a.m. right behind Gov. Snyder and his entourage in the vanguard of what would be some 45,000 participants to follow. It was a “bluebird” morning with a hazy sun rising on the eastern horizon. With cool temperatures and no wind it was, in our opinion, one of the best 5-mile “strolls across the Straits” we’ve ever taken. We finished the walk in Mackinaw City in a very respectable one hour and three minutes. This being a Presidential election year, we were schmoozed by what seemed like hundreds of politicians at the finish line. Enough of politics already, we headed off to our favorite breakfast spot, Darrow’s Family Restaurant just blocks away and were seated just before a waiting line of famished bridge walkers snaked out the front door and down the block. The place is just that good, and we certainly didn’t forget a piece of their famous homemade pie for breakfast dessert. However, what follows is about an idea we have been toying with for the past few years, so here’s the rest of the story. For the last three years we have been lodging a short drive of 20 miles southeast of Mackinaw City in Cheboygan, MI. We love Cheboygan; it is a special can-do City full of friendly and caring people, much like Rockford. Best of all, we are afforded reasonable room rates and no one is taken advantage of by the exorbitant holiday lodging rates in Mackinaw City. Situated on the shores of Lake Huron, Cheboygan lays claim to being the homeport of the USCG Cutter Mackinaw. Cheboygan is a small city and with a population of 5,250. It reminds us of our own […]

RHS senior story one of work, reward

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by TAYLOR BUSKARD For most high school students, senior year is a year to remember: A time for friends, and a time for relaxing. It is the time to go fishing, and the time to stay out late. Many look back on their senior year with memories of parties, trying to find the right dress for prom, and of course the classic senior pranks. But for me, my senior year will always be something more than that. Imagine a hole dug in the ground for a bathroom, a room with a dirt floor, and a crowd of quiet strangers full of despair. This is my glory; this is what will without a doubt be one of the most unforgettable memories in my life. From 1960 to 1996 the country of Guatemala experienced heartbreak and warfare. A civil war tore through the land and left behind in its path thousands of orphans and widows. They were alone, frightened, with no place to call their own. Victims watched their children and spouses suffer; they smelled the smoke as their very own homes were burned to the ground. Cries of sorrow rang throughout the villages as young children ran for their lives into hiding. Although the worst may have ended in 1996, the despair has still yet to be extinguished. People struggle day to day to survive, living in places that are not sufficient enough for survival. Last week, I, as well as 16 others from BridgeWay Community Church, had the chance to reach out and help these innocent people. Our high school youth group raised enough money to travel to Guatemala and purchase building materials. We then traveled 10 hours by bus to a remote village where we were able to build 10 homes for widows who had almost nothing. Although they had no way to pay us back, they gave me so much more than they could ever know. When first arriving at the village, everything was in slow motion. As we all stepped out of the bus together, we were met by dozens of curious eyes. I can imagine we looked like quite a sight with our light complexions and big goofy rain boots. My eyes gazed the crowd, stopping when I noticed little girls […]

Rockford group to submit entry, perform at ArtPrize

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CINDY M. CRANMER A Rockford woman is working to turn her dream into reality with an ArtPrize performance that will feature 90 area singers as well as a song entry the public can vote on at the event. ArtPrize, which runs this year from September 19 to October 7, was founded in 2009 and has been restructured over the last four years but still features the world’s largest art prize along with being the largest art competition to decide its awards by public vote. There will be 16 prizes totaling $550,000 that will be distributed in 2012. Of this amount, $350,000 will be decided by a direct vote of attending visitors and $200,000 by a panel of jurors. The top public vote awards will be for $200,000 for first, $75,000 for second, $50,000 for third and $5,000 for fourth through 10th places. For more information on ArtPrize, visit “It is my dream to organize a 90-voice choir from the Rockford community to perform at ArtPrize 2012,” said Renee Vande Wege, Rockford Community Choir director. Members of local church choirs, professional singers, high school choir members or individuals who have a singing talent but are not currently involved in any group all are welcome to join the Rockford Community Choir for the performance. “We’re excited. We’re probably a little nervous. We’re feeling all the things you feel before you perform,” she said. The choir that is being put together features a gamut of voices from a fifth-grader through a 75-year-old area resident. Vande Wege took over conducting the Rockford Community Choir from Kayle Clements, a local composer. The ArtPrize entry the public can vote on will be a piece that the Rockford Area Arts Commission commissioned Clements to write. The vote code is 53416. Two Roads is a four-part a capella piece that will be performed at St. Cecilia Music Center at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. A four-person recording will showcase the entry so the public can vote when the group is not performing. Two Roads uses the text of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Vande Wege said. “The idea for this song evolved out of my life journey this past year and my desire to draw together the multitude of […]

MAIN STREET by Roger Allen, publisher

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

Warm enough? Sometimes I read science reports about the weather. It’s not that I’m a nerd; I’m just interested in stuff that hits me right in the face. Stuff like the blazing sunshine (certainly not rain) that heated up our summer this year. And the mild breezes of last winter, one of Michigan’s warmest on record. A word of caution, though. Reading science reports about the weather can trigger anxiety attacks. That’s because… Details about extreme weather throughout the country seem to bombard us non-stop. Weather scientists’ predictions are pretty dire and they’re based on statistics. (It’s probably not good for me that I majored in statistics in college.) It doesn’t take much imagination to get a picture of what happens if the country runs out of energy to operate air conditioning when the temperature hits 100+ for weeks in a row (42 days in a row for Dallas, Texas, this summer). And scariest of all, global warming deniers are still bucking the scientists and pushing their own notion that all this is normal variation. Human beings keep burning fossil fuels? That has nothing to do with it, folks, so drill, baby, drill, and burn, baby, burn. Wild thinkers are saying that if this keeps on, we’d have to live underground. That would sure ruin the looks of the neighborhood. To quell my anxiety, I’d like people not to shout down but to listen to the scientists about where Earth and we, her children, stand with Mother Nature. And I’d like people to encourage the necessary, if inconvenient, actions needed to avert catastrophe. Here’s a website to one of those weather science reports. It has to do with what happened to the ice in the area of the North Pole this summer. Here’s a quote to get you started: “Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water—six Californias—beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.” Let’s lighten up Mr. Wilkins began reading his recovery-room record at the hospital. The doctor arrived for the routine check-up to find the elderly gentleman quite concerned about one notation. “I know I was in a bit of a mess when I was admitted,” said Mr. Wilkins, […]

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