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2017: That was the year that was in NE Allegan County

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is a survey of the year 2017 and an analysis by the editor.

Dorr Township’s fall from grace and relapse back into the land of bad government unfortunately was the No. 1 story of the now dearly departed year 2017.

The troubling trend finished ahead of such top 10 news powerhouses as the continuing saga of the Leighton Township air park, the defeat and redemption for Wayland schools’ bond projects, the departure of B-93 from the Martin Motor Sports Park, the Martin school district’s forward looking solar project, Watson Township’s willingness to consider a marijuana dispensary ordinance, Avery Hudson breaking a 54-year-old individual school scoring record in basketball, the sale of Smith Lumber to developers of an event center, Gun Lake Casino expansion and the continued dominance of women’s athletics prowess at Wayland High School.

Dorr Township’s troubles return

It was only a couple of years ago that the Dorr Township Board seemed to shed its “bad government” reputation when new Supervisor Jeff Miling and Clerk Brian Boot didn’t deliver the goods sought by the failed old recall proponents, Patty Senneker and Bernie Schumaker.

But the 5-2 votes changed to 4-3, which was problematic when just one board member failed to show at a meeting, as evidenced by the 3-3 tie in a supposedly routine reappointment of Bob Wagner to the Planning Commission. Wagner eventually won back his seat, but shortly afterward Trustee John Tuinstra was caught audiotaping a Plan Commission meeting in what appeared to some as an effort to catch Wagner and others violating the Open Meetings Act.

Some Plan Commission members suggested Trustee and Plan Commission member Terry Rios put Tuinstra up to the secret audiotaping. Tuinstra apologized, but vehemently denied he was trying to catch Wagner and colleagues.

Further evidence of trouble in River City was the resignation of Assessor Patty Samply, who said she couldn’t work with the newly elected board members, Rios and Clerk Debbie Sewers.

So the split now features Sewers, Tuinstra and Rios against Miling, Treasurer Jim Martin and Trustees Josh Otto and Dan Weber.

Controversal Leighton air park approved

Though an air park was proposed a couple of years ago for a former site of a private strip, the issue came to a head first in April when the Planning Commission turned it down 3-2 and in October when the Township Board passed it 4-0, with Supervisor Steve Deer abstaining because he is a partner in the project with Clark Galloway.

Opponents of the air park, who insist it will cause safety and noise problems and is inconsistent with the rural agricultural neighborhood, eventually gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote, probably in the August 2018 primary.

Schools lose badly, but make comeback

The Wayland Union school district put together an ambitious $55 million bond project with two proposals on the May special election ballot. Both plans were rejected in landslides, by about 65% to 35%.

But the school board quickly met and decided to pare down the proposals to remodeling and repairing Pine Street Elementary instead of selling it, building an addition to the middle school and repairing the two tennis courts into one larger complex. The proposals were approved with 51.6% of the vote, with the biggest margin of victory provided by the City of Wayland.

B-93 Birthday Bash leaves Martin

The B-93 Birthday Bash, which had been held annually since 2012 at the Martin Motor Sports Park, decided to change its venue to Fifth Third Park.

Local government and fire officials acknowledged they shed no tears with the country music festival’s departure, which brought a lot of rowdy and drunken visitors to Martin Township and created traffic jams.

Martin schools goes solar in construction

Martin Public Schools became one of the first district to include installation of solar panels on its buildings while construction took place on fields and facilities after passage of a bond project.

Watson weighs marijuana ordinance

Though no other government unit in the area seemed interested, Watson Township began work on possible adoption of an ordinance that would permit growing, dispensing and transporting medical marijuana.

The move followed Gov. Rick Snyder and the State Legislature passing a law giving local governments the right to permit and regulate such facilities.

It isn’t yet known what effect a proposed state-wide referendum legalizing recreational marijuana will have in August or November if approved.

Hudsons continue basketball excellence

Avery Hudson, third child of WHS head basketball coach Mike Hudson, broke the school’s individual game scoring record with 53 points against Forest Hills Eastern. The record had stood since 1963, when Ron Kidney scored 45 against Nashville.

Hudson’s older brother, Wes, was beginning his second year coaching the Wildcat girls and his sister, Presley, was busy setting records at Central Michigan University with 43 points in one game and 1,000 career points very early in her junior year.

Avery and long-time pal Zack Nieuwkoop both ended four-year careers on the varsity and now are playing hoops at Davenport University.

Smith Lumber becomes event center

Smith Lumber & Coal, one of the oldest businesses in Wayland, finally was sold and the new owners announced plans to turn the massive structure into a center for weddings, reunions and special events.

The developers have been grappling with parking issues, but work at the remodeled building continues.

Gun Lake Casino expands

The Gun Lake Casino completed expansion of business at its site just off Exit No. 61 on the U.S.-131 expressway.

Besides expanding the gaming and eateries inside the building, the casino opened a gas station across the street and added a Subway restaurant.

Girls still dominate Wildcat sports

Wayland athletics still is dominated by the ladies. Coach Cheri Ritz’s softball team annexed its 12th straight district championship and its 24th O-K Gold Conference championship.

Also dominating their sport were the Lady Wildcat bowlers, who have had to overcome the loss of coach Bill Holbrook to the collegiate ranks. Yet Sydney Urben set aschool record by rolling a 290 game and her 537 two-game series is tops in the state. She is joined by Amber Beggs, Marissa Bruinsslot and McKenzie Banas in a team to be reckoned with this winter.

The WHS girls’ cross-country team qualified for the state meet for only the third time in school history, with super sophomore Rylee Cronkright earning all-state accolades. Teammate Maggie Whitney did even better in the spring by taking fourth in the state in 800-meter run in track.

The Wildcat girls’ golf team qualified for state for the second time in the last three years and the Lady Wildcats’ volleyball team, under new coach Mike Scott won a district crown. And the WHS girls’ soccer team had their best season ever at 13-7.

There were many other stories of note, such as:

  • Ground was broken on Reno Drive for a new instructional facility to train future millwrights and carpenters. Not far away in the industrial park on Reno Drive, an oddly-shaped parcel was purchased for $20,000 by Josh Otto and Keith Nickels, despite claims of neighboring businessmen they paid a lot more for theirs.
  • The “Corner Curse” at Main and Superior may finally have met its match when the Salvino family bought the historic old building and established apartments and a nostalgic “Retro Room” business.
  • City Manager Tim McLean resigned abruptly in August without the customary two-weeks’ notice to join his new bride on the east side of the state. He will be replaced by Joshua Eggleston of Wisconsin in February.
  • Hopkins Township unveiled hard feelings with the casino, being the only local government refusing to support the Gun Lake Tribe in an amicus brief filing. It also was noted that Hopkins Township Fire Department unfairly has been not included in a fire agreement, even though the Jijak Foundation grounds are located within the township. That oversight was rectified.
  • Airport Lanes was getting a critical look from local officials who said its owner was illegally living in the facility, along with his family.
  • The City of Wayland spent a lot of time going over the ins and outs of a chicken ordinance. Dorr Township adopted such an ordinance earlier in the year.
  • Martin launched its first-ever cross-country season and enjoyed reasonable success, with Brysan Young being the first Clipper ever to qualify for the state meet.
  • Neighbors of the Green Valley Agricultural facility in Moline complained several times to the Dorr Township Board and Planning Commission about noise at sleeping times. New owners will take over early in January.
  • Martin launched its first-ever cross-country season and enjoyed reasonable success, with Brysan Young being the first Clipper ever to qualify for the state meet.
  • Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski, former 80th District State Representative, announced his candidacy for State Senate to succeed term limited Tonya Schuitmaker, less than a year after being elected clerk for the first time.
  • Wayland Chrysler is sold to new owners, immediately sparking rumors that the business will seek much larger quarters at the now vacant former Cars2Go lot on West Superior Street for better location than on North Main.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken was shuttered and Taco Bell, the only eatery remaining at the location, was remodeled.
  • In the tragic deaths department, longtime Wayland Township Board member Pat Staley, also a longtime reporter for the Wayland and Penasee Globe, died over the summer. Her sister, Nancy Grevenstuk, died earlier in the year and her niece, Kalee Noble, 11, had died in just the last couple of years. Her uncle, longtime football coach Glenn Noble, was diagnosed with cancer, but is reported to be recovering. Phyllis Stein, matriarch of the large family former Mayor Burrell Stein headed, died only a couple of weeks after she and Burrell were grand marshals of the Wayland Christmas Parade. Former Gun Lake Tribe Chairwoman Leah Sprague-Fodor’s death was shocking because she wasn’t even 50.
  • The area said good-bye hastily to Hopkins and Dorr Library Director Natalie Bazan, who was very active and controversial before leaving for Illinois. She was succeeded by Elyshia Schafer.
  • In the bittersweet department, Joanne Lodenstein Worden former WHS Multer Award winner, was crowned world champion in South Korea in an unusual sport, just months after her mother, Melody, died of cancer.
  • Both the Wayland and Hopkins robotics teams qualified for state competition. Two Martin Odyssey of the Mind teams qualified for world competition. And Wayland freshman Eli Merren was state champion in novice debating.
  • Also stunning a lot of people in sports, Elena Campon, foreign exchange student from Spain, was quarterfinalist and regional champion in tennis singles competition. Charlie Toman, a WHS sophomore, was a member of the world champion basketball and finalist in archery at the World Dwarf Games.
  • Meghan Schulz, who earned a quality reputation in track as a shot-putter, surprised a lot of people by announcing she will go to Michigan State University to compete in rowing.
  • The Hopkins girls’ and boys’ bowling teams, the Wayland girls’ rollers and Hopkins girls’ track team probably didn’t raise that many eyebrows by winning their league titles. They do it often.
  • Hopkins baseball and softball won district championships.
  • McDonald Modular Solutions decided to set up shop for its site trailer manufacturing operations at the corner of 14th Street and 142nd Avenue in Dorr Township.
  • Wayland had to say good-bye to the monthly Rabbit River folk gathering because organizer J.D. Gonzales and his new job were on the road too much.
  • Last, but not least, Townbroadcast welcomed promising youth reporter Austin Marsman and columnist Lynn Mandaville, former Henika Library Director.
  • Allegan County Clerk Bob Genetski, former 80th District State Representative, announced his candidacy for State Senate to succeed term limited Tonya Schuitmaker, less than a year after being elected clerk for the first time.
  • Wayland Chrysler is sold to new owners, immediately sparking rumors that the business will seek much larger quarters at the now vacant former Cars2Go lot on West Superior Street for better location than on North Main.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken was shuttered and Tac Bell, the only eatery remaining at the location, was remodeled.
  • In the tragic deaths department, longtime Wayland Township Board member Pat Staley, also a longtime reporter for the Wayland and Penasee Globe, died over the summer. Her sister Nancy Grevenstuk and her niece, Kalee Noble, 11, had died in just the last couple of years. Her uncle, longtime football coach Glenn Noble, was diagnosed with cancer, but is reported to be recovering. Phyllis Stein, matriarch of the large family former Mayor Burrell Stein headed, died only a couple of weeks after she and Burrell were grand marshals of the Wayland Christmas Parade. Former Gun Lake Tribe Chairwoman Leah Sprague-Fodor’s death was shocking because she wasn’t even 50.
  • The area said good-bye hastily to Hopkins and Dorr Library Director Natalie Bazan, who was very active and controversial before leaving for Illinois. She was succeeded by Elyshia Schafer.
  • In the bittersweet department, Joanne Lodenstein Worden former WHS Multer Award winner, was crowned world champion in South Korea in an unusual sport, just months after her mother, Melody, died of cancer.
  • Both the Wayland and Hopkins robotics teams qualified for state competition. Two Martin Odyssey of the Mind teams qualified for world competition. And Wayland freshman Eli Merren was state champion in novice debating.
  • Also stunning a lot of people in sports, Elena Campon, foreign exchange student from Spain, was quarterfinalist and regional champion in tennis singles competition. Charlie Toman, a WHS sophomore, was a member of the world champion basketball and finalist in archery at the World Dwarf Games.
  • Meghan Schulz, who earned a quality reputation in track as a shot-putter, surprised a lot of people by announcing she will go to Michigan State University to compete in rowing.
  • The Hopkins girls’ and boys’ bowling teams, the Wayland girls’ rollers and Hopkins girsl’ track team probably didn’t raise that many eyebrows by winning their league titles. They do it often.
  • Hopkins baseball and softball won district championships.
  • McDonald Modular Solutions decided to set up shop for its site trailer manufacturing operations at the corner of 14th Street and 142nd Avenue in Dorr Township.
  • Wayland had to say good-bye to the monthly Rabbit River folk gathering because organizer J.D. Gonzales and his new job were on the road too much.
  • Last, but not least, Townsbroadcast welcomed promising youth reporter Austin Marsman and columnist Lynn Mandaville, former Henika Library Director.

 

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