Category Archives: News

Mark’s Towing Making Changes

Mark's Towing
Mark and Kim Parker greet fans as they are acknowledged as 4th of July parade grand marshals in 2018.

Kim Parker tells us that Mark’s Sales & Service in Schoolcraft will be out of the towing and auto repair business on January 1. “Because of health problems, we realized it was time for Mark to step back and let our son take the reins. Sean Sutherland and his wife, Amanda, will be renaming the repair shop ‘131 Auto Care’. They are excited to be purchasing that part of the business and have fresh ideas,” Parker said. “Mark and I will remain at the 429 S. Grand address. The office building out front will be for used car sales only. Our name will stay the same. We hope to build up our inventory and still serve the great customers we have met during the last 26 years in Schoolcraft.”

Vicksburg Foundation Grants

Rudy Callen, president of the Vicksburg Foundation, announced grants made in 2019 to the following nonprofit entities in and around Vicksburg.

Vicksburg District Library – air conditioning repairs

Pride of Scotts Community Center – building improvements

Vicksburg United Methodist Church – building renovations

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Curiosity Grants

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Bardeen Grants

Junior Achievement of SW Michigan – Titan Challenge

Lending Hands – Endowment fund project

Vicksburg Community Schools – School Resource Officer

Village of Vicksburg – State of the Village Address (catering)

Vicksburg Band Boosters – band trailer

Village of Vicksburg – Director of Community Engagement

Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation – Student Scholarships

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo – Fall Bike Celebration

Gilmore Keyboard Festival – 2020 performance at PAC

Vicksburg DDA – Facade Grant Program

United Way – UW of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region

Southwest Michigan Miracle League – field development

Obituaries

James Knepp Bell, 78, Schoolcraft, passed away Nov. 30. James was the son of Ramsay and Virginia (Knepp) Bell. He was born on November 3, 1941 in Washington, D.C. James graduated from Schoolcraft High School in 1959. After high school, he attended Michigan State University for a short time, before coming home to work. His family described him as independent, a creative thinker, unconventional, having a business mind, and a naturalist. In the 80’s, his family owned Bell’s Family Restaurant in Schoolcraft. He also owned Bell Real Estate and worked in his later years at Harding’s in Schoolcraft. Jim was a proud lifetime member of the Schoolcraft Lions Club. His hobbies included bow hunting and bowling. He enjoyed a good poker game. James is survived by his four children, James (Maureen) Bell, of Portage; Shane (Donna) Bell, of Florida; Tim (Sonja) Bell, of Louisiana; and Tamara (Don) Trudeau, of Nevada; 11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Jeff (Vicki) Bell, of Schoolcraft. Visit James’ page at avinkcremation.com. Donations may go to the Schoolcraft Lions Club.

Lyle G. Brockway, 95, Grand Rapids, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away January 1. Lyle was born in Brady Township on April 15, 1924 to Omar and Ines (Stevens) Brockway. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1942 and attended Michigan State University until enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters for flying thirty-five missions in B-17s over Europe during WWII. After the war, he married Maria Marian Dalman on July 5, 1947 in Vicksburg. Lyle was employed at Consumers Power Company for 37 years, rising to district superintendent in the Cadillac area before his retirement. Lyle and Maria had four children. He enjoyed many activities over the years, playing bridge, gardening, doing crosswords, caning chairs, square dancing, while always being an active member of the Vicksburg EUB and United Methodist Churches wherever he lived. He loved his time with his grandchildren and taught them all how to play cribbage. He served on the Brady Township Board as a trustee, United Way board in Manistee, taught Sunday school, and was a member and director of the American Contract Bridge Club. Lyle was preceded in death by his first wife, Maria in 1991; his parents; sisters Donna Kunselman, Margaret Harriger, Mary Brown; a brother, Donald Brockway; and a son, Michael Brockway. He is survived by his second wife, Roberta DeRoos; a sister, Bea Ross; children Ken (Barb) Brockway, Robert (MaryAnn) Brockway, Ann (Scott) Robare; a daughter-in-law, Fran Brockway; 10 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. A funeral service for Lyle will be held on Saturday, January 11, at 11 a.m. at the McCowen-Secord Funeral Home, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service beginning at 10 a.m. Visit Lyle’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to the Red Bird Mission.

Jerrold “Jerry” L. Dailey, 80, Scotts, passed away Dec. 16. Jerry was born on March 21, 1939 in Vicksburg. He was the son of George and Imogene (Randall) Dailey. He graduated from the Vicksburg High School Class of 1957. On March 25, 1978, he married Marilee. He is survived by his wife; son Chad (Brooke) Dailey, of Schoolcraft; stepson Scott (fiancé Tomi Jo) Shrauger, of Jenison; grandchildren Jordan, Hunter, Paige, Brenna, Joey, and Carli. He is also survived by his sister-in-law: Louanne (Bob) Heemstra, of Kalamazoo and daughter-in-law Dawn Dailey, of Schoolcraft. He was preceded in death by his son, Scot Dailey. Visit Jerry’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Lord of Life Lutheran Church and the Vicksburg Lions Club.

Bradley Jacob Dow, 22, Kalamazoo, passed away December 10. He was born January 31, 1997 in Norwich, Conn., the son of Bruce and Rachel (Smith) Dow. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 2015, where he was a member of the Big Red Machine marching band. He was an avid musician, playing the trombone and drums. Bradley is survived by his parents, Bruce and Rachel of Scotts; brother Bruce (Donielle) Dow and their children, Jessica and Isaac of Comstock, and sister Meagan (Joseph) Stiver and their daughter, Addison, of Vicksburg. He also leaves his paternal grandparents Ronald and Bette Dow of Las Vegas. He is also survived by his girlfriend, Taylor Freemire, and dog, Remington Prince. Donations may go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or to his GoFundMe to help offset expenses.

James S. Huntington, 67, Vicksburg, passed away peacefully December 6. James was born on July 20, 1952 in Kalamazoo. He was the son of Paul and Margaret (Hartman) Huntington. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1970. On December 18, 1976 he married Sheran Skipper in Missouri. James worked at Simpson Paper mill until it closed. James is survived by his children, Elizabeth Huntington of Vicksburg, Marcia Skipper of Vicksburg; Pamela (Dale) Mentor of Portage and Ronald Skipper of Comstock; 19 grandchildren; great grandchildren and his siblings, Robert (Jodi) Huntington of Scotts and Steven (Brenda) Huntington. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings Pat and Larry. Visit James’ page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Generous Hands.

Philip B. Maneikis, Schoolcraft, passed away December 25. He was born on November 14, 1944 to Victor and Margaret (Hammond) Maneikis. He married Cynthia M. Hull on July 30, 1966. They were married 38 terrific years and raised four wonderful Christian daughters. Phil retired from KVCC after teaching engineering manufacturing for 33 years. He also farmed 350 acres in Schoolcraft for over 40 years. He was a member of Lawton Evangelical (Mennonite) Church. Phil was passionate about helping those in need in devastated areas through Mennonite Disaster Service. He rebuilt and repaired homes for 2-3 months every year for 20 years. After Cyndi passed in 2003, he married Kathleen (DeForest) Schelb. Their combined family included daughters Tiffany Priest, Michelle (Jeff) Stahl, Jennifer (Scott) VanZanten, Melissa Chandler, and Jennifer Schelb. They also had 12 grandchildren and 2 great grandsons. Phil was predeceased by his brother, Dennis. In addition to the above family members, he is survived by his brother, Stanley. Visit Phil’s page at BetzlerLifeStory.com. Donations may go to Leukemia And Lymphoma Society or Lawton Evangelical Church to be used for missions.

William “Jim” Miller II, 68, passed away at his home December 22. Jim was born in Kalamazoo, on February 8, 1951 to the late William J. Miller “Bill” and Irene (Kramer) Miller. He was raised in Portage with his brother, Robert Jay Miller. After graduating from Portage Northern High School, Jim went on to Ferris State University. He later moved on to a career at the Upjohn Company (Pfizer) that spanned more than 37 years. Jim loved the people he worked with and enjoyed reminiscing with old friends and co-workers at the monthly retirement breakfasts. Jim loved sports! He enjoyed bowling and playing adult hockey as a goalie. One of his greatest passions was coaching and playing for the Upjohn slow pitch softball team, “Freak Bros.” He was proud of his friendship with the late Galesburg-Augusta Hall of Fame High School Football coach, Bill Maskill, and loved sharing stories of their friendship over the years. They enjoyed sharing breakfast three days a week for the last 10 years. Jim is survived by his son, William “Willie” Miller, of Schoolcraft, a brother; Robert (Tammy) Miller; grandchildren William “Jimmy” Miller IV and Mackenzie Fay Miller, a nephew, Bobby Miller, and niece, Andrea Miller. Visit his page at avinkcremation.com.

Josie Taylor-B Neel, 1, Vicksburg, passed away from complications with her heart December 7. She was born to JT Neel and Megan Oswalt on November 27, 2018. Within forty-eight hours of her birth, Josie underwent surgery to repair her congenital heart defect, truncus arteriosus. Josie enjoyed playing with her cousins, having her mom read and sing to her, and playing with her special baby dolls. She often loved to stare out the window looking for deer with her dad. There is no doubt that Josie Neel was a bright light in the lives of many. Her infectious smile could light up any room. Born slightly premature, she made up for her small stature in her larger-than-life personality. Josie is survived by her parents, JT Neel and Megan Oswalt, of Vicksburg; grandparents Shane and Heidi Neel of Vicksburg and Dan and Kelly Oswalt of Vicksburg; great grandparents Bonnie Oswalt, of Vicksburg; Kathy Lange, of Vicksburg; and Gary Neel, of Alabama; great-great-grandmother Darlene Cain, of South Haven. She is also survived by her aunts and uncles, Emily and Andy Foster, of Vicksburg; Derek and Katie Debiak, of Vicksburg; Justin and Morgan, of Otsego; and Wyatt Neel, of Vicksburg; special cousins Grady, Addy, Braelyn, Brynlee, and Easton. She was preceded in death by her great grandparents, Gordon Oswalt, Edwin and Ruth Martin, and Vivian Schroeder. Visit Josie’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donation checks be made payable in one of the parent’s names for a future memorial fund that will be set up in Josie’s name.

Phillip M. Stewart, 83, formerly of Vicksburg, passed away Nov. 29 in Bradenton, Florida. He was born to John and Ruth Stewart in Kalamazoo on November 26, 1936, the oldest of five children. Phillip attended WMU, where he obtained bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics. Phill co-founded Triple S Plastics in Kalamazoo, then moved it to Vicksburg. In addition, he founded Beacon Tool and Engineering. He was an inventor and held seven U.S. patents. In 1987, he moved to Sarasota, Florida. In 1988 Phill cofounded Stewart Industrial Supply in Bradenton with his brother, Dave Stewart, formerly of Vicksburg. He entered the teaching field by substituting at Sarasota Military Academy and IMG Academy. Phillip was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Jack Stewart, and his daughter, Sandra Baus. He is survived by his wife, Esther, his children Tammy Stewart, Teresa Vaal, Phillip Andrew Stewart and Diana Schau. He is also survived by his brothers, Dave Stewart and Bill Stewart, and his sister, Jeanne Qualls. Phillip had eight grandchildren, three great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Donations may go to the Melanoma Research Fund at U of M. Checks may be made payable to U of M and sent to the Michigan Medicine Office of Development. You may also call 734-764-6777 or visit the website victors.us/philstewart to make your gift. You may also donate to Tidewell Hospice.

Hisko Timmermans, 72, Vicksburg, passed away November 30. On February 17, 1947, Hisko was born to Gerrit and Zwaantje (Hulsing) Timmermans in Groningen, Netherlands. His family immigrated to the United States in 1956. He graduated with the class of 1965 from Portage High. Hisko received his bachelor’s degree in education from WMU. He enlisted in the United States Army and served stateside. He remained in the reserves until 1976. Hisko worked for his father at Timmermans Plumbing and Heating, a family business. Following in his father’s footsteps, he later started his own business, Hisko Timmermans Plumbing Company and finished his plumbing career at Mall City Mechanical. Hisko was also actively involved in the Vicksburg community. Hisko enjoyed playing the guitar and singing in a local beach band. Hisko enjoyed a wide variety of sports. He was known to officiate the AYSO soccer games in Paw Paw as well as play on an adult league at the SoccerZone in Portage. He also played golf, ran in local races, and was a regular member of a spinning class at the Bronson Athletic Club. Hisko was married in 1969 to his first wife Diane (Karen) and together they raised three wonderful children; Kristi, Josh, and Matt. Later, he met and married his second wife, Barbara, on April 21, 1989, joining her two children, Lisa and Matt, with his three and forming their extended family. Hisko is survived by loving his wife of 30 years, Barbara; the children, Kristi (Matt) Hausler, of Petoskey; Josh (Maureen) Timmermans, of Ohio; Matt (Christina) Timmermans, of Ohio; stepchildren Lisa (Chris) Newman, of Vicksburg; Matt (Marcy) Leonard, of Arizona; 11 grandchildren; siblings Roelie (Doug) Caldwell, of Ludington and Garret (Sandra) Timmermans, of Kalamazoo; several nieces and nephews. Visit Hisko’s page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to West Michigan Cancer Center, AYSO, or Generous Hands.

Carol Woodburn, Schoolcraft, passed away peacefully December 4. Carol was born to Herbert and Marie Beischl on July 2, 1936. She is survived by her children, William (Sue Vanlaten) Woodburn, Chris Asher, Ross Woodburn, Robert (Michelle) Woodburn Jr. and Keith (Jackie) Woodburn; 11 grandchildren; 14 great grandchildren; a sister, Loleta Farrow; and many nieces and nephews. Carol was also known as “grandma” to many. She was preceded in death by her husband of 45 years, Robert Woodburn Sr., parents, Herbert and Marie Beischl; siblings George, LeRoy, Alice, Mildred, Ruby and Judy. Cremation has taken place and burial will be March 13, 2020 at Schoolcraft Cemetery with a luncheon to follow at First Presbyterian Church in Schoolcraft. Visit Carol’s page at avinkcremation.com.

Village Council Approves Changes to the Historic Village

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Village Council took several steps to eliminate taxpayer support of the Historic Village at its December meeting. It raised rental rates for the Community Pavilion and approved a tentative lease agreement which would require the nonprofit Vicksburg Historical Society to shoulder all utility and maintenance costs.

Although no firm figure was discussed, one estimate is that annual operating costs to Vicksburg for the Historic Village are about $12,000.

The steps were recommended by Village Manager Jim Mallery who had been meeting with representatives of the Historical Society since October.

Mallery cited a memo from Village Attorney Andrew Horne saying it’s “unlawful for the village to give money to a nonprofit,” but acknowledging that the village has done so for many years.

The practice has to stop, Mallery said.

Don Wiertella, president of the Historical Society, acknowledged the need for a legal agreement but asked for further research on the question of allocating village funds to the nonprofit organization.

Mallery also called for an end to the use of a community garden in the Historic Village to raise vegetables.

“The use of the community gardens must cease immediately. Growing edible plants on public land that predictably would require phase 1 and phase 2 environmental assessments would cost an estimated $20,000. It would probably prove the land was not suitable to grow edible plants, due to the previous use as a landfill.”

Growing flowers in the park “will need to be on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Mallery’s report said. Members of the Victorian Garden Club have been volunteering time to plant and weed the foundation plantings around the buildings in the Historic Village. The group and individuals would be required to sign a form stating they’re not selling the flowers grown on the site.

All recommendations dealing with the gardens, rentals of the pavilion and oversight of volunteers who take care of the Historic Village were approved by the Council with an extension of time on the lease agreement until June 30, 2020. Mallery originally had asked that the Society agree to the lease by Dec. 16, 2019.

The village manager, in calling for an end to taxpayer support of the village, said providing payments from public funds for buildings when the public has no access to them raises concerns about best practice and use of public funds. “We cannot justify providing these services without compensation. The village needs to be able to concretely justify the public benefit that the residents are receiving from the expenditures.”

Mallery questioned the actual value citizens of Vicksburg are getting for their money when they are paying for utilities and maintenance in the Historic Village. The previous agreement meant that the Village was responsible for major maintenance problems such as a failed furnace.

An agreement which outlined the use of the entire site was drafted several years ago but lacked fundamental elements of a legal agreement, he said. Mallery presented the new lease agreement for the Historical Society to sign, recommending the village Council approve the ongoing functions of the entire park including the buildings and the grounds.

Also, in his recommendations to the council were new rental rates for the pavilion. These will increase from $25 to $100 for private events. Activities and events open to the public such as the Farmers’ Market, the Lions Club B&B and a proposed antique show from May to September would be charged $25 per day.

The Thursday Guys who have helped to maintain the buildings in the park, the so-called “Rembrandt Painters” who have kept the buildings fresh with paint and all other volunteers will face new requirements, including signing a volunteer release and waiver of liability form prior to conducting any work within the park. They must also receive permission from village staff to perform work on the site.

The operating agreement between the Historical Society and the village provided the bulk of the staff recommendations presented to the council. It requires the society to sign a lease for the use of the buildings and to pay the utilities and any maintenance needed for the duration of the agreement.

Wiertella noted in his prepared statement that the Historical Society has obtained all of the funding to relocate and erect five historic structures and six replica structures, using no village funding to do so.

The existing agreement, he noted, recognized that the society did not have the funds to maintain the structures on the grounds. Therefore, the earlier agreement called for the village to take ownership of the buildings once they were completed and furnished with historic artifacts.

Wiertella added, “We request the following: that the Michigan Compiled Laws be reviewed to determine if the village can, or would, continue to provide funding for utilities and building maintenance.” He also asked for and received an extension of the existing lease to the end of Vicksburg’s fiscal year, June 30, “to review our budgeting and operational requirements.”

“We stand before you in good faith and in support of developing a mutually beneficial agreement. We understand that times change and we must adapt as well. Our objective is to continue to deliver our mission in a sustainable and effective manner. We are certain that with the support of village residents, management and council, we can achieve these goals. We look forward to finalizing an agreement within the coming months.”

Village Trustee Julie Merrill asked Wiertella how much the buildings were worth to the village and the capital that was raised to pay for them.

Wiertella didn’t have a ready answer: “I am fighting for the life of the Historical Society. Thanks to Jim, we need to get our ducks in a row. Our major request is more time to work on this to find multiple solutions.”

Citizens Police Academy Open to County Residents

Lt. Baker 1
Lt. Jeff Baker gives a slide show presentation at the Schoolcraft Library.

By Sue Moore

Who knew that Kalamazoo County citizens could ride along with deputies while in their cars patrolling? Or that, while taking a course at the Citizens Police Academy, a student could work in the jail, be trained in forensics and crime lab work?

They’re possible if a person is enrolled in an 11-week course at the Sheriff’s Department under the tutelage of Lt. Jeff Baker, who heads the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division. He started the course three years ago and was recently recognized as Coordinator of the Year for the National Citizen’s Police Academy in 2019 for his work in Kalamazoo County.

Vicksburg resident Krista Manley just finished the course and highly recommends that others should take it. “I was reintroduced to Jeff Baker recently when I saw an ad on Facebook regarding the 2019 Citizens Police Academy. I had reached out to show my interest in applying to the academy and was put on a waiting list until this year when my time finally came up in September. I have been attending the Citizens Police Academy since then and graduated on 11/13/19. I knew of Jeff when I went to school in Vicksburg as I’m a long time resident,” she said in an email.

“I am beyond proud of all the time and effort that Jeff has put into developing this program for the citizens of Kalamazoo County,” she wrote. “I know that his work has been recognized across the U.S. This program has taught me so much about behind the scenes of the Academy. I have been exposed to so much that this has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of what our officers do, go through, etc. I feel that everyone should go through this, especially those who may have negative views of police officers.”

“It would mean so much to me if Jeff could be recognized for all of his efforts with this program and allowing the citizens of Kalamazoo County to benefit from this outstanding program. During my time at the Academy I have been given so many opportunities – to observe dispatch, work the Jail, complete a drive-along, participate in a simulation and many various lectures on topics of interest. I would have never been exposed to this if it hadn’t been for him having this idea and vision and putting it into place,” she said.

Baker graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1986. He graduated from Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s criminal justice program and got his first job in public safety as a police officer in Vicksburg in 1989. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1995 as a patrol deputy. Since then he was promoted to the rank of detective sergeant where he received specialized training in work involving computer and cell phone forensics, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2016. He supervises the agency’s eight detectives.

The next Citizen’s Police Academy begins January 15. Lt Baker has announced that it is full but there is a waiting list in case of an opening, or for the next class which will begin in September. The class consistently fills up quickly and the early applications are encouraged. If interested, Lt Baker can be contacted at jmbake@kalcounty.com. Applications are available at the Sheriff’s Office website at https://www.kalcounty.com/sheriff/specialprogram.php?tag=Citizens+Academy.

Local Frauds and Scams Highlighted by Sheriff’s Dept.

Lt. Baker 2
Lt. Baker handed out a document called frauds and scams in a presentation sponsored by Schoolcraft Presbyterian Church.

By Sue Moore

More than $20 million has been stolen from local people who were duped by fraud and scams in Kalamazoo County since June 2017, according to Lt. Jeff Baker of the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department Detective Bureau.

And perhaps quite a bit more. The number is just the total of thefts reported to police.

“The scammers and fraudsters concentrate on the elderly because they are vulnerable, have more money stashed away in retirement savings accounts and are usually more trusting,” said Lt. Baker. He was at the Schoolcraft library recently at the request of the Presbyterian Church, speaking to a group of about 20 seniors.

Lt. Baker believes that education is the best way to combat fraud and scams, which is why he goes out on speaking tours as part of his work. He began the speaking engagements when he was promoted to lieutenant in November, 2016 and examined the many complaints his department deals with each year.

“Scammers want your money or information that will get to your money,” Baker told the group in Schoolcraft. “If they get one person to bite out of hundreds of letters or emails sent out, it’s a good payday. The general tipoff is when the offer is too good to be true. The person calling you might use phrases such as hurry, the offer is good today only, then they want you to pay something for shipping, handling, to receive the product.”

He cited a Publishers Clearing House scam that tells a person they won the big prize. The caller will say taxes need to be prepaid. The “winner” goes to the bank to send money straight to the scammer.

The grandson-in-jail plea for bail money seems like a call for help that a caring grandparent surely will act upon. Not so fast, Baker warns. Checking with the parents first seems obvious. But people right here in Kalamazoo County fell for that one to the tune of $63,264 since June 2017. The average age of the victim is 83 years old.

An audience member described a scam he was subjected to recently when someone stole his PayPal account and charged a $360 pair of Air Jordans, having them delivered to an address in Detroit. Baker said it could have been an abandoned house with someone waiting within sight for the delivery to be thrown up on the porch.

Spoofing of phone numbers when the call looks like it’s coming from someone you know is hard to combat, Baker said. You can block the caller but that doesn’t solve the problem. You can get on the national do-not-call list but spoofers are getting really good at disguising where the call is coming from. The only correct action: Don’t answer the call and have the person leave a message.

Much of the time, the caller will want you to run to Walmart or Meijer and buy a series of gift cards, scratch it off to get to the hidden numbers and read them to the caller. It’s always with the admonition to “hurry and don’t tell anybody” while you are doing this trip to the store.

Employment scams are prevalent and have bilked county residents out of a reported $40,000 plus in the last two and a half years, he said.

IRS threats have reaped a reported total of $39,000. He cautions that the IRS will never demand immediate payment, call about taxes owed without first sending you a bill, require you to use a specific payment method, ask for credit card numbers over the phone or threaten to bring local police to have you arrested.

Computer repair is another tactic and a common scheme right now. This has garnered a reported $138,000 in payment for supposed fixit plans for computers in Kalamazoo County. Lt. Baker showed a document from the “National Virus Research Center” that made the audience chuckle because it had so many grammatical errors in it. Scammers will ask for your password so they can access your computer to fix it for you. That’s all they need to cause real damage.

Dating sites are the saddest cases he deals with. “Everyone needs someone. People get hooked, send money and then discover it’s a scam. It’s the most under-reported scam we deal with,” Baker says.

Then there are frauds perpetrated by itinerant people who come to your door, saying they are in the neighborhood and have some extra asphalt or whatever repair work they are doing. “There is a large clan out of Iowa who come around and stay in local hotels while they are going door to door.”

He cautions his audience not to react to high pressure tactics on anything. It has cost a whopping total of $21.5 million he estimates, since he started to keep track of fraud and scams in Kalamazoo County in June of 2017.

A group, organization, or business interested in hosting Lt. Baker’s presentation, can reach him at 269-383-8725 or jmbake@kalcounty.com.

Vicksburg School Board Sets Bond Issue Request

vix new teachersBy Sue Moore

The Vicksburg school district will ask residents to approve a 3.3-mill tax in the May 5 election to finance building improvements estimated at $40-42 million.
If approved, the proposal would cost taxpayers $3.30 per $1,000 taxable valuation for six years.

It will be called an increase on the ballot because an earlier 3.53-mill levy for a bond issue will end this year, before the new levy would begin.

But Asst. Superintendent Steve Goss pointed out that taxpayers will see a slight drop in the tax rate if voters approve the new levy – the difference between the expiring 3.53 mills and the new 3.3-mill levy.

“We want to ensure that every kid gets the most educational benefit they can while in the Vicksburg school system,” said Superintendent Keevin O’Neill. “It should be the best we have to offer and that depends on how we maintain our buildings, keeping them 100 percent up to date with a safe and comfortable learning environment.”

“If we let the facilities deteriorate over time, then the cost to update and repair escalates,” Goss told the school board at its December meeting.

The proposed bond issue was planned in 2014 when a technology bond issue was passed, knowing that the facilities would need a hard look in 2020.

This new issue would be in the neighborhood of $40-42 million, Goss said. The earlier bond issue will be paid off in May.

“We are at 6.85 mills now. If the next request is authorized the total school millage would be a reduction to 6.6 mills. Technically it is an increase because of the way the wording on the ballot needs to be phrased. Our hope is to slightly reduce the millage rate with each future request,” Goss said.

Goss said the plan is to borrow the funds through a state bond loan fund for the first time. That uses the state’s better credit rating and reduces interest payments on a six-year issue. New legislation now allows the construction to be done without paying prevailing wage rates, also reducing the cost of repairs, Goss explained.

“The earlier facilities studies conducted by Tower Pinkster and Frederick Construction looked at what we currently have in place and then what we want the buildings to look like five to 20 years out. We can plan for that and every six years retire the bonds and ask for replacement money to keep up our buildings so students can learn in a good environment.”

Should the millage fail, the rate would fall back to 3.3 mills. And if it passes, the use of the proceeds is limited. “We can’t use bond proceeds to buy school buses or other items as there are very tight restrictions on how this money can be spent. We are very careful about this. If we let the facilities go and don’t have bond proceeds to fix them, then the money will have to be paid out of the general fund, especially for technology upgrades,” Goss said.

“We compare costs to build new or renovate, which we believe is much more cost effective. We have identified priorities with an index of what we want to improve, nice to have but not urgent,” Goss said in a later interview. “We are never done with repairs so we will need to ask for support about every six years with this kind of plan in mind. We keep our projections pretty conservative and plan for flexibility so we can change as we go forward. We want to keep our vibrant schools in vibrant Vicksburg.”