Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Summer Palooza Changes Venue to Wind + James

All of Schoolcraft is invited to join the fun on Thursday, August 1 for the Fourth Annual Schoolcraft Summer Palooza, said Deb Christiansen, one of the organizers. Sponsored by the Friends of the Schoolcraft Library, the Palooza is a community event where local business come out to display and present their products and services to the people attending. It is set to open from 5-7:30 p.m. at Wind + James, 555 E. Eliza St. This is a change of venue from the usual Burch Park location.

Proceeds will benefit children’s programming at the Schoolcraft Community Library. There will be games and prizes provided by local businesses, a silent auction, and many arts and craft vendors. Returning is the Fresh Food Fairy, riding her blender bike while serving fruit and vegetable treats to children who want to join in riding the bike. Nonla Taqueria of Schoolcraft will be the food vendor. Contact AnJie Havens at 352-1882 or email her at for more information. RSVP for this event at  It is not required but appreciated as there is a capacity limit at Wind + James and with Nonla vending the food an idea of how many are attending would be helpful, Christiansen said. Those that RSVP can get buy-one-get-one-free photo cards from Bill Christiansen. He may have a drawing specifically for those that respond.

Poetry and Music Make for Meaningful Signs at the Mill

By Sue Moore

The poetry speaks with volume: Foot-high black lettering on bright orange silt-fencing, facing motorists on W Avenue on the south side of the Mill.

It’s the work of Schoolcraft high school students with guidance from English Language Arts teacher Doug Martin and Peg Butler, an Oregon artist whose work often connects with social and ecological issues.

Butler spent two weeks in Vicksburg leading the “Mill Writes Project” in conjunction with Schoolcraft High’s spring term poetry class.

The six-week short course, Poetry and Music, took an interesting turn when the class visited the Mill in May to study its rebirth, renewal and regeneration. They learned about the use of poetic language from Martin, using words rich in meaning and connected to the mill renovation project.

There were 22 students in the elective class who wrote poems in as few words as possible while being able and willing to revise the wording the teams created. They were urged to look at poetic devices through music terms, according to Martin.

“I understand better what words mean to different things,” said Chance Evens, one of the students. “I will think more about words when reading and listening to music in the future.”

Butler’s idea for the Mill Writes Project grew out of a previous public art project called Orange Lining that she helped create along a seven-mile light-rail line in Portland.

On field trip day to the Mill, students learned about the past, present and future of the Mill site. Lisa Phillips, an environmental scientist, talked about the contamination that remains from the industrial processes and the techniques being used to clean up the site. Jackie Koney talked about the redevelopment of the Mill site to be a thriving complex of businesses and activities that will include a brewery, event center, hotel, walking trails and wildlife habitat.

Students collected words, ideas and images during the Mill visit, and over the course of a week honed their thoughts into short poems. Twenty-eight poems were then painted onto silt fencing, some signs stretching as long as a hundred feet. They will be installed along the south fence at the Mill on a rotating basis. For the weekend of the Old Car Festival in Vicksburg, all of the poems that were not yet installed at the Mill were displayed inside the vacant pharmacy building in the Village to create an engaging spectacle, activate the pharmacy space and inform about the Mill Writes Project.

Village Council Gives New Details on Schoolcraft Sewer

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State Representative Brandt Iden attended a meeting of Schoolcraft residents and elected officials when the possibility of sewers for the village was one of the topics considered. Sitting next to him is Jennifer Gottschalk, president of the Schoolcraft school board.

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft village residents got some of the first details of the long-discussed sanitary sewer project at a special meeting of the Village Council in June.

On hand were members of the Planning Commission, Kalamazoo County Health Department and a representative of the consulting firm Wightman & Associates to give information to a crowd of roughly 100 at the high school performing arts center.

Alan Smaka of Wightman was the main speaker of the night and was finally able to shed some light on the size, scope and potential costs of the project for residents. Under the proposal Smaka presented, construction would not begin until 2022 at the earliest on a $15-40 million project that would bring sewer service to residents within the village as well as residents of Barton Lake and Sugar Loaf Lake.

The proposal suggests a possible lagoon or treatment plant somewhere south of the village along the US-131 corridor. Operating a treatment facility independently would allow the village to control system legacy costs.

A key part of the service area would be the US-131 corridor. The proposal includes areas north and south of the village where businesses are present. “One thing I want to point out here is this is the biggest project scope that we anticipate,” Smaka said. He said the project size could shrink depending on input from the community. But he noted the village needs to ask for the largest possible project when approaching funding agencies about possible grants.

“You don’t ask for a small project and then ask for more money,” Smaka said. “You go with the largest project scope and if you need to, you can always pare it back.”

The plan for funding is much the same as it was in 2015. Smaka said the plan is to pursue USDA funding for the project. It is the lowest interest rate they could find at 3.375% for a bond term of 40 years. Smaka said this program was a perfect fit for Schoolcraft.

“It was set up to provide water and wastewater funding assistance for rural communities with populations under 10,000,” Smaka said. “The federal government understood that a lot of communities couldn’t, under their own terms, fund these projects at an affordable market rate. If you go to market on a project like this, you’re going to be at five percent in 20 years. What that does is drive the cost of the project up significantly.”

In estimating the costs to village residents, Smaka said they took a conservative approach that estimates no federal grant funding. Once the sewer is in place, the cost to residents for use would be approximately $50 a month for a single-family home or about $600 a year. The costs for businesses would be different and would be assessed by what they call residential equivalent units or REUs. A home is one REU. Businesses that use a lot of water would be charged multiple REUs and thus would have larger sewer bills. This monthly bill would help cover funding, operation, maintenance and replacement costs.

But there are also two one-time assessment costs to help cover the capital costs of the project and they would be significantly more for landowners in the community. A front footage assessment is for vacant and improved properties with homes that would connect to the system right away. This assessment would charge approximately $5 per front footage, meaning a property with 200 feet of front footage would have to pay approximately $1,000.

The larger of the two fees would be the benefit fee assessment which is assessed to everyone who is benefiting from the sewer line. The cost for this would be approximately $10,000 per REU. There would also be a $2,000 charge for connecting to the system. In all, the cost would be approximately $13,000 if paid entirely up front.

“When you do a bonded project like this the homeowner has options. The property owner has options,” Smaka said. “You can pay for that assessment all up front, or you can pay for it over the life of the bond.”

Paying for the assessment over an extended period would mean a lower upfront cost of $2,000 for the homeowner. But it will also cost more in the long run, approximately $250 in principal interest a year on the unpaid balance over 40 years. Smaka said residents can pay for the assessment costs monthly or in full at any time over the course of the bond. “That’s a personal decision that people can make based on their situation,” Smaka said.

Homeowners also could save some money upfront by delaying the actual connection to the system for up to five years until 2028. Smaka said this was also done so homeowners could retain value in their septic systems longer. But he also noted many septic systems in the village are approaching 40 years old and will need to be dealt with soon anyway. He estimated homeowners will also have to pay costs of $2-5,000 for filling in and abandoning their old septic tanks.

Those who build a home on a vacant property long after the sewer has been completed would be subject to a fee of $8,500 or more plus connection costs.

All these costs are under the assumption of no USDA grant money. If the village got a full 45 percent grant, these costs to the homeowner would go down 45 percent. Smaka said financial assistance will likely be available through the state or USDA’s loan and grant programs for disabled people or low-income families.

Smaka also clarified a burning question in the village on roadways. He said the sewer would likely cross roadways which would be repaved, but not all roads in the village will be repaved under the project. He also said construction work would try to avoid the roads wherever possible.

As for a further timeline of events, they announced there will be more public engagement meetings, including a question and answer meeting.

An adoption for a resolution on the project would likely happen in the third quarter of 2019 with USDA funding applications happening another 60-90 days after that. Design and permitting would happen 18-24 months later with construction starting in 2022 at the earliest, with two years of construction estimated for the project.

Village council members did not allow any questions at the meeting and instead directed members of the community to put their questions on note cards to be answered at a later meeting.

Fourth of July Committee Needs More Volunteers

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft will have fireworks again this year despite shrinking budgets. But the organizing committee also wants to see some new people involved in the yearly event.

Organizers Jon Krum and Randy Palmer were present at the village council’s first meeting in June to thank council members for a donation that makes the show possible.

Village President Keith Gunnett noted that while the village’s budget was tight, they were able to find room to help. Krum acknowledged that the show is getting more expensive to produce with the increasing cost of fireworks and shrinking budgets. He said they are in need of more financial donations. “It’s going to get to a point here pretty soon where I don’t know where the funds will come from,” Krum said.

Palmer said they tried looking at other avenues for buying the fireworks this year, but the primary supplier is gouging everyone right now. “The actual price on display firework went up probably 20 percent,” Palmer said. “It’s all because of one man in China that’s putting a stranglehold on it.”

Trustee John Stodola said he read a story about how new tariffs would also drive the price of fireworks higher. Palmer said that would probably have a bigger effect next year than this year.

Krum also noted another challenge is finding more volunteers. He doesn’t plan to stay involved with the planning for much longer. “We’ve got to come up with some people, younger people, I don’t know where to start,” Krum said. “We’ve got to come up with some solutions.”

There have been other challenges recently. Palmer said he couldn’t find anywhere to store one of the trailers they use for the displays. He ended up having to store it outside because there were no other options. The council thanked Krum and Palmer for their devotion to the cause before they approved $2,500 for the display.

In other business, Stodola presented two memorandums from the sidewalk committee. The first, which was approved by the board so the DPW could start work, summarized a list of potential sidewalk projects in the village. He said they’ve bounced back and forth between repairing damages and total replacements of sidewalk sections. “We can only do a few every year because the budget is tight,” Stodola said.

The second memorandum dealt with enforcing sidewalk ordinances where sections of sidewalk are being damaged by homeowners. “We think we would be well-served to go back and review those because it’s uncertain who pays for the damages,” Stodola said.

As one example, Stodola wondered who pays for the damages in spots where cars are constantly crossing sidewalks to the road. “It’s all kind of ambiguous the way we have it right now,” Stodola said.

Little League All Stars

little eagles softballThese are the all-star girls from Schoolcraft’s Little League. In the back row, from left: Brynn Bozell, Zoey Triemstra, Valerie DeVries, Payton Gottschalk, Sydney Williams, Leah Ostlund. Front row, from left: Bianca Agnone, Addison Bienz, Kinsley Smith, Breslynn Boyes, Alexis Walther. Photo by Katie Boyes, Little Eagles Learning Center.

Eagles Softball Ends Season as Runner Up in State

Coaches for the Schoolcraft softball team hold the runner-up trophy. They are from left: Becca Shemberger, Hunter Hart and Head Coach Shane Barry.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Eagles varsity softball team had a season to remember, but came up just short in its bid for the school’s first state title in the sport.

Schoolcraft failed to score any runs in the state title game against Millington, losing 8-0. The Eagles got down early in the contest as the Eagles struck out their first five at-bats and Millington scored its first five runs in the bottom of the first.

Jordan Watts got on base with a single in the top of the second, but courtesy runner Paige Reid was left stranded. Sophie Ridge and Danielle Blyly both got on base in the top of the third, but they too were left stranded at first and second. The only other hit of the game came from Adrienne Rosey on a single in the sixth.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Eagles after several come-from-behind wins in the tournament to get to the final game of the season. In the semifinal the day before, the team played a thriller against Dundee.

In that game, the Vikings opened an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Dundee loaded the bases in the top of the second, but great home-plate throws by Makayla Meade and Ridge helped the Eagles out of the inning with no damage. Dundee made the score 3-0 in the top of the fifth. The Eagles finally got on the board after a bunt single by Ridge. She got to second on a fielding error and finally home on another.

In the top of the sixth, Kayla Onken walked to start things off. That is when Kelby Goldschmeding made the play of the game. She crushed a huge, two-run homer over the right field wall to tie the game. The Eagles didn’t get anymore runs from the inning, but it helped shift momentum to Schoolcraft’s side.

After the score stayed tied 3-3 in the seventh, the game went into extra innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Onken walked again and got to second on a pop out. After that Dundee intentionally walked Meade and Kelby’s twin sister, Allie Goldschmeding came to bat. Allie hit a short grounder into the infield which was turned to first and looked like an easy out for Dundee. But the base umpire ruled the throw was late; Goldschmeding’s foot hit the base first. Onken scored on the play 4-3 to win the game.

The young team will graduate only two seniors in Meade and Brenna Walther, meaning next season should be one to look forward to for fans.

Steve McCowen Recognized for 25 Years of Service

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Steve McCowen of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft is at the far right, standing beside his friend David Cummings. All four were honored for their longevity in the funeral business by the Michigan Funeral Directors Association. Photo credit: Kylie Roznowski.

Steve McCowen, local funeral director, received recognition from the Michigan Funeral Directors Association for 25 years of service.

This award was given to him at the association’s annual meeting in Port Huron. “What made the award even more special to me was receiving the award with an old friend, David Cummings. David and I worked together in Jackson at the Wetherby Funeral Home,” McCowen said. “I started working there when I was 16 years old, and David was a few years older. We both cut the grass, painted, cleaned and washed the cars together. We both went to college to become funeral directors at the same time and then took different paths afterward.”

“Cummings and I were taught by the same mentor, the late Tom Tuthill. Tom was instrumental in us both knowing the business from the ground up. At the ceremony last week, David and I sat together and both thought of how proud Tom would be, not just for the award but for how we both do things the right way with families. David today owns two funeral homes in Muskegon and Whitehall; and I own four funeral homes in Vicksburg, Portage, Plainwell and Schoolcraft. A lot of hard work, long hours and some sleepless nights, sometimes multiple nights in a row go into being a funeral director,” McCowen pointed out.

“As I was looking around during the ceremony, I thought back to the journey. The award was for 25 years but I have worked in the industry and learned from some of the best for over 30 years. I didn’t become the funeral director I am today, by myself. I had Tom that gave me the foundation, Walt Harper and Jack Weston taught me some skilled trade for helping people with extreme issues, Chuck Nelson in Gaylord who owned the Nelson Funeral Home taught me the detail end of the business like none other and how to have class. And I had Sheldon and Marilyn Durham that taught me more than anything about being a funeral director in a small town. Marilyn taught me how to help people grieve and more importantly to live,” McCowen remembered.

“Then I also thought of all the sacrifices my family has made: Jenny, my wife, Mackenzie, Joey, and Stephen and Jenny’s kids, Evan and Emma, for some of the events I don’t get to make because of the business,” McCowen said. “This award wasn’t about me, it was about the shoulders I have stood on to get that award. They are the ones that made me who I am and with regards to my family allow me to be the person I need to be for the families in our community. They are the reason I earned this recognition.”

McCowen said, “I take great pride in the opportunity that families give our firm to serve them. It’s an honor that I am humbled by on a daily basis. McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, isn’t just Steve McCowen, it’s the people that work beside me every day.”