Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sy Spears, Schoolcraft’s New Village Council Member

sy spears 2By Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft Village Council appointed Sy Spears to a vacant seat at its December meeting. He replaces Scot Dailey, who passed away suddenly last June.
Spears and his friend, Bret Willis, have spent the last two months circulating petitions among village residents and downtown businesses to determine if they want sewers in the village.

“We had a lot of good conversations with residents, even if they didn’t support the effort. The bottom line was dollars for most people. It’s tough to see how the cost of the sewers might affect the older residents. We are still canvassing the businesses because it has not been easy to find all the property owners. The project is up in the air and in a holding pattern until we can find out if the preliminary grant application is approved. Some residents are on the fence and might go for it if the grant is successful,” Spears said.

“The environmental impact of not having sewers over the many years” is what drives Spears in the direction of the sewer project, he said. “There just isn’t enough room for homeowners to expand in their yards because of the septic systems when houses are close together. Plus the downtown needs more flexibility that sewers will provide to bring in new businesses and new people to support those businesses.”

Willis and Spears have been friends since they met in second grade in Schoolcraft. They live just a couple of blocks apart in the village. Willis is like an uncle to the Spears’ two children, Tripp, 5, and Kennedy, 3. Spears and his wife, Kate, moved to Schoolcraft about three years ago, although Spears had been in the landscaping business with his father and mother long before that. They own Personal Touch Lawn and Landscaping just outside of Schoolcraft. They provide snow removal, mowing and leaf clean-up primarily to commercial properties. They are responsible for mowing all of Schoolcraft Township’s cemeteries. Spears graduated in 2000 and played football and baseball for the Eagles. He graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in urban and regional planning.

His first contribution to the betterment of Schoolcraft was to serve on the planning commission. “It will take a lot of work to chart the future course. I’m open to different ideas and want to be flexible in our planning. This is our town and our community, so I feel we can come together and make a difference,” Spears said.

“Now, the village council and the community need to focus on where we are headed in the future. The vision planning will be important to see if we can come up with an identity for Schoolcraft.”

Barton Lake Association Ends Sewer Petition Drive

Sewer water authority
Alan Smaka, Rich Pierson, Cindy Chapman appeared at the Vicksburg Village Council meeting to ask for support for the South County sewer project.

By Sue Moore

Members of a Barton Lake committee who circulated petitions to build sewer lines around the lake found that 37 parcel owners favored the project and 97 rejected it, according to Bob Sacksteder, co-chair of the committee.

“We decided to release the petition results at the general lake association meeting in December because we felt that all parcel owners in the proposed sewer district should learn of the results in a timely fashion,” Sacksteder said.

“This effort has been divisive within the association and may have jeopardized the trust some members have in their board,” he said. “As a volunteer who served as liaison for the board on the sewer issue, I wanted the residents to know the process we followed as well as our reasons for holding the meetings and petitioning the homeowners.”

There has been a good deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about the project with hard feelings arising on both sides of the issue, Sacksteder explained. The association’s mission statement declares that the purpose of the group is to protect and improve the quality of the lake. In keeping with the mission, they invited Alan Smaka, Wightman & Associates engineering representative, to speak to the group. His firm had been asked by the South County Sewer and Water Authority to devise a plan for sewer construction around the lakes and villages. A majority of the members attending a meeting last fall wanted to find out more about the project. It was agreed to go forward, Sacksteder said.

“While we agreed to proceed with our fact finding, we did not decide that we should adopt the sewer project. After the meetings were concluded, people involved in discovering what the community wanted decided to undertake the petition drive. We also agreed to petition people in the proposed sewer district, even if they do not pay the lake improvement tax assessment, as a courtesy and out of respect to all homeowners who would pay for the sewers,” Sacksteder pointed out.

“At homes where no one answered the door, we returned at least one other day to try to allow everyone a say in the matter, but we did not get to every house. As a result, we decided that the owners of 51 percent of the acreage in the proposed sewer district do not want sewers. Neither the township supervisor, Don Ulsh, or the president of the BLA board, Ken Hovenkamp, participated in our decision making or had any influence on the committee.

“I would like to thank all the citizens who took the time to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of the project and participated in the decision making,” Sacksteder said.

Village of Vicksburg Council Hears Sewer Proposal

By Sue Moore

The village council was presented with the possibility of hooking up with a proposed sewer system for south Kalamazoo County at its January 4 meeting. Although Vicksburg’s sanitary sewer system is connected to the city of Kalamazoo’s waste water treatment plant, the village was asked to consider a change.

The possibility of joining with the service areas interested in building their own treatment plant somewhere south along U.S. 131 corridor is part of a plan that has been discussed in 2015 by other area governmental units. Alan Smaka of Wightman & Associates and Rich Pierson, and Cindy Chapman of the South County Sewer and Water Authority presented the proposal in depth.

“Do you want to investigate further?” Smaka asked the council. “This could be the framework for future growth where you could control your own destiny.” “The village is in the driver’s seat,” Pierson said.

“The village could maintain its current fees but there are other costs that a grant is going to dictate. The authority rates are higher than what Vicksburg is charging now but you are going to have expenses to fix your infrastructure that is not factored into what you are currently charging,” Pierson said.

The debt structure on the village’s new pumping station is built into the new operating and maintenance budget in the Wightman proposal, the Council was told. If the village chooses to join in, it would participate on a percentage of the total costs, based upon the number of users. All of the costs would go into the same bucket and divided out equally, with the exception of the assets the village has already constructed and paid for. New hookups would cost what others in the service area are charged, not what the village charges now.

The key drivers are a cap on the amount of flow the authority can deliver to the Kalamazoo treatment plant. This agreement services Pickerel and Indian Lake and a small section of Long Lake. It is authorized to send 446,000 gallons a day with a contract that expires this year. Vicksburg, however, is on a year-to-year contract with a 300,000-gallon capacity going through the pipeline in Portage to get to the Kalamazoo plant. “This plan gives us an alternative,” Pierson said. “Kalamazoo has plenty of capacity but there will be a long-term cost for pipes and pumps for the village that is not now included in the rate schedule.”

Smaka explained that the potential costs of a new system are predicated on no grants and no growth. This means higher costs for those who do not have sewers now and creates a lot of the opposition to the project, he acknowledged. His firm has submitted a pre-application grant proposal to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fund up to 45 percent of the costs in loans and grants. “We are seeking a letter of eligibility from a pool of funds that is set aside by the federal government to help rural areas get better lending rates. The application takes the whole proposed area into its request, but it doesn’t obligate any of the governmental units to join. “It’s easier to be all-inclusive in the beginning and later take out non-participants than to keep adding them later,” Smaka said.

It will take four or five months for the USDA to consider the application, Smaka said. In the meantime, Sugar Loaf Lake seems to be in agreement, Schoolcraft village has said no, the U.S. 131 corridor is considering it, and the Barton Lake Association has said no to the project. He has also had some interest from homeowners on Sunset Lake whose properties are outside of the village.

Vicksburg Hires an Assistant Village Manager

mallery & ken
Captain Jim Mallery of the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department and Ken Schippers, Vicksburg village manager, asked for permission to make Mallery the assistant village manager.

By Sue Moore

Ken Schippers, Vicksburg’s village manager for the last two years, announced the appointment of Jim Mallery as part-time assistant village manager at last month’s council meeting. “I find myself caught up in so many different directions, that I wanted some help to minimize the burden just a little bit,” Schippers said in introducing Mallery who will become the liaison to the police department.

His role will be to incorporate 21st century policing in Vicksburg, Schippers said. Mallery will be charged with reviewing the contract with the negotiating unit as this agreement is up for review by the end of June. He will work on policies and procedures in the department, do an audit of the evidence room, and provide a written plan for training and expectations.

The council was informed that Mallery would work 15 hours a week, 60 hours a month with his contract spanning January to September. Total compensation will be $20,000. Bill Adams, president of the village Council said Mallery comes highly recommended by Kalamazoo’s chief of public safety, Jeff Hadley. “He’s not one of the best, he is the very best,” Adams said.

Mallery has 25 years of policing in Kalamazoo, with 15 years as senior staff of the public safety department. He currently serves as head of the operations division, the largest division in KPS. He served as interim chief when the city conducted its search for Hadley, who has given his blessing to this hiring.

Mallery will stay on in the Kalamazoo department.

In that department, “The emphasis in policing was on protection and enforcement,” Mallery said. “Now we are moving to a customer service model where we actively listen by going block by block, knocking on doors to better communicate. We received a national customer service award recently for this practice.”

Mallery and his wife, Stephanie, have lived in Vicksburg for 17 years. She is an instructional coach in the Vicksburg school system, where their three sons, Drew, Lucas, and Cole have all attended. For 10 years, Mallery has headed up the Athletic Boosters organization which has donated thousands of dollars to the Vicksburg athletic facilities. “I’m excited about helping to make a positive impact on a place we call home.”

Schoolcraft Wrestling Team Setting New Records

sch wrest 4
Zac Sharp in action. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger.

The Schoolcraft wrestling team is building momentum for the conference tournament and the state tournament. The Eagles are posting impressive rankings and setting milestones.

Schoolcraft is currently ranked eighth in the state in D4, with six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight class. The depth of the Eagles is shown in the rankings. Spencer Fox is ranked fourth at 125, Justin Braford fifth at 140, and Ethan Sharp ninth at 145. Many teams struggle to field a full team, but Schoolcraft is strong at the upper weight class as well. Zac Sharp, Ethan’s brother, is ranked sixth at 160, Cameron Blalock tenth at 171 and Brandon Verwey is fourth at 215.

Fox often will change his weight class to wrestle where his team needs the points the most, and it has resulted in him earning his 100th win in his junior year. Not to be outdone, Zac Sharp and Justin Braford each earned their 150th win–on the same day. This season, the ranked wrestlers are joined by hard working, tough men at every weight class. Justin VanDyken, River Fox, Taylor Meyer, Riley Watts, Scott Macfarlane, and Brady Gillaspie have performed well while taking on some of the best teams in the state. While they may not always win their match, their contributions are critical to the success of the team.

Eagles Girls’ Team on a Tear

sch g bb
Jayci Suseland goes to the basket for a layup.

The Schoolcraft Eagles girls’ basketball team continued its strong season through January. The Eagles have a 9-2 record, and are 5-1 in the SAC.

The post players have increased their aggressiveness in scoring and rebounding. Wynn Stitt, Amber Overley, and Jayci Suseland have each had outstanding games. Schoolcraft Head Coach Doug Flynn has been able to count on multiple guards to take charge of the court.

Kennedy Leighton and Halli Hunt bring intensity, toughness, and leadership to the court. When they take a breather, Flynn can use Hannah Huysken’s quickness to create turnovers for the Eagles. Sophie Woodhams, back from an injury that sidelined her early in the season, also brings ball handling skills and speed up and down the court. Add Saxman to this group and opposing teams have their hands full trying to match up with Schoolcraft. If the team continues to gel, Schoolcraft will be tough to beat.

Boys’ Team Stays Strong

sch b bb 3
Britton Bidigare & Matt Schuppel fight Galesburg for the bal. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger.

The Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team enters February having only lost two games and dominating many of their opponents. Its 7-2 record includes four victories by more than 30 points.

The Eagles have been led by different players, but one thing has been consistent–strong post play. Whether it is Cody Tone, Blake Bales, Jason Feddema, or Matt Schuppel, Schoolcraft has been able to feed the ball down low to get the points it needs.

Riley Piper, Noah Troyer, Zach Parsons and Max Kulczyk have provided great guard play for Schoolcraft. Their defense and hustle have created turnovers and turned into easy baskets for the Eagles. The schedule gets tougher for Schoolcraft as they will face Hackett twice and Kalamazoo Christian in February.