Category Archives: Vicksburg

The Mill’s Future as Explained by the Project Manager

By Jef Rietsma

Plans for the $60 million redevelopment of the former Simpson Paper Co. mill are falling into place. Transformation could begin in earnest this spring, said project manager Jackie Koney.

Koney, at the November meeting of the Vicksburg Rotary Club, said she remains optimistic the property will return to the prominence of its heyday, though in a far different capacity.

“There were as many as 300 people working at the mill in the past and we want to have that many people working there again … working and living,” Koney said. “This is a multi-use facility we’re planning; there are going to be apartments, office space, event space, multiple food- and beverage-production facilities, beer gardens. There’s just a lot to this place.”

Koney cautioned that design plans she showed during her speech remain subject to change. A few definite plans, however, are in place.

For example, outbuildings without historical value will be demolished.

From the time Paper City Development’s president, Chris Moore, started planning redevelopment three years ago, the former mill has been the site of plenty of work. Koney said a huge step was securing a spot in the National Register of Historic Places. The designation allows the project to qualify for federal tax credits to supplement the project’s expense.

A master plan was completed in 2016. Emergency roof repairs are being conducted, and a fair amount of cleanup has taken place.

“For example, the building is free and clear of asbestos,” Koney said. “There’s still lead paint, but all of the rest of the contamination inside the building is taken care of. There’s still some contamination on the property that we need to deal with, however.”
After the paper company left, a series of owners spent no money on maintenance and left the mill exposed to the elements. Because of that, there is serious damage to the roofs, leaving the building vulnerable to damage, untenable for redevelopment and at risk of losing its status on the National Register of Historic Places. Emergency roof repair, including replacing 10 24-foot-long support beams on the east wing, is almost completed.

As a “brownfield” site, the property has numerous obstacles to redevelopment, including the presence of contamination, blighted and dilapidated structures, and outdated infrastructure.  Paper City Development is working with its contractors, the MDEQ and MEDC to develop plans to address these issues and secure funding assistance to resolve these obstacles not typically found on a “greenfield” site.  This is in addition to being eligible for historic tax credits to help pay for the planned historic preservation activities at the site. It is Moore’s intent to restore the mill in a manner that celebrates the legacy of the site and its place in the history of the Village of Vicksburg and larger paper-making industry of the region.

Koney, who has known Moore for more than 30 years, said she has no doubt his heart is fully into the project – and it remains with the Village of Vicksburg.

“Chris loves the mill. He loves it for many reasons including the fact that his grandfather Gordon Moore and his dad Tim Moore worked there for most of their careers. He worked there in the summers during college and it’s a beautiful, important, iconic building and it meant a lot to this community,” Koney said.

Moore stepped in after plans were presented to demolish the mill, which closed in 2001.

Koney said Moore lives in Seattle and owns Old Stove Brewing Company in the city’s historic Pike Place Market development. Old Stove Brewing (named after an old Kalamazoo Stove) will be the first tenant at the redeveloped mill and is projected to be open for business in late 2019.She shared details of an economic-impact analysis conducted by Washington, D.C.-based specialist Michael Shuman. She said rough figures show the project will create at least 200 construction jobs over a three-year period and will support more than 1,200 new jobs in the first five years of operation. The result? Koney predicted $182 million in new wages, $357 million in new value added, and $55 million in new state and local taxes.

“I love this quote that he provided in his draft report,” she said. “It says, ‘Very few economic-development projects of this magnitude simultaneously clean up a polluted site, restore historically important buildings, create hundreds of high-paying jobs and attract tens of thousands of visitors. All of these features complement rather than compete with other economic-development initiatives in the region.’”

Koney said part of the appeal to Old Stove Brewing in Vicksburg will be the opportunity for guests to see where products used in the beer-making process come from.

“The idea is to make this a destination for people interested in knowing how stuff gets made, so they’ll be able to go out onto the adjacent 80 acres and see what hops, barley, wheat and rye, etc. look like. Then they’ll be able to come into the facility and there will be a malt-processing facility, a hops-processing facility, yeast cultivation, equipment manufacturing and brewing. It’s going to be a situation where people can see how the whole process is done and then they can go and drink their beer,” she said.

Koney, who delivered a similar presentation to the Vicksburg Lions Club, said there is good reason to be optimistic about the redevelopment.

“Obviously, it’s easier to build a new building on a green property that has no contamination than to rehab an old building on a brownfield property that has contamination. But I think people will be interested in visiting, and living in – and will even hear about Vicksburg in the first place – because of the old mill,” Koney said. “Everybody can have a new building; not everybody can have the Vicksburg Mill. It’s the only one there is.”

60th Wedding Anniversary for Vicksburg Couple

Barbara and Billy Adams will have been married 60 years on Feb. 22. Although both are from Illinois, they met on Indian Lake in June 1957 while Barb was visiting Sue (Miller) Hunt. Bill drove up to the Miller’s dock in a pleasure boat. It didn’t take much longer after that for him to ask her for a date and for her to accept.

Her parents, Floyd and Opal Miller, came here from central Illinois in 1953 where he was employed by Wolverine Pipeline. She graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1957. Bill was from southern Illinois where he lived with his grandparents. He was in town to visit his mother (Helen Miller) who lived here at the time the two met. He took a job at Simpson Paper Company for 12 years and then worked for 27 years at the Fisher Body plant until retiring in 1993.

Barbara was a homemaker and a seamstress offering her consummate sewing abilities to many people in this area. Following Bill’s retirement, they traveled in their truck and trailer for 20 years to Arizona and Texas. The last 14 years of their marriage has been spent in Port Lavaca, Texas where Bill has enjoyed making a lot of fishing friends. Barb has spent her time sewing and quilting at a local quilting shop, making everlasting sewing friends, she said. Their last winter in the Lone Star state was 2015 as they have now settled down all year in Vicksburg at their home on East S Avenue where they have lived for 59 years. They had one son, Brad, who passed away in April 2017.

Bill has been treated successfully for esophageal cancer. He was born in 1936. Barbara was born in 1939.

Vicksburg Transportation Department Gives Gifts

vix transportation dept.
Those helping out were Chris Cowles, Alice Cronk, Cheri Craig shown on the lift of the car trunk. On the right of the car is Karen McKinstry, Lyndsey Harp and Linda VanderStraaten. Many drivers donated but were not available to be in the picture when it was taken, McKinstry said.

The Vicksburg Transportation Department delivers school children safely from their home to school and back again. At Christmas time, they decided to give back in a new way by buying and wrapping Christmas gifts for some of their students. Its driving crew won third place money with a school bus decoration in the Christmas in the Village parade in December. They used that money for the gifts along with cash contributions.

The bus drivers and administrators decided to buy Christmas gifts for needy children with their prize money and personally delivered the gifts. “We had a fun time planning, shopping and wrapping.  The delivery went smooth and I believe the parents were blessed,” the Transportation Director Karen McKinstry said.

Christmas for SCCS patrons

sccs xmas gifts
Fire Chief Tracy McMillan, at right, was joined by Vicksburg Police Chief Scott Sanderson, on the left. They greeted their luncheon guests at the church standing next to Diane Durian who organized the events. Seated on the left is Otto Decker and Jim Boers on the right.

Serving the public when there is a fire or an emergency is usually when people meet the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority personnel. During the month of December, the staff took time to meet the people by sponsoring free meals for patrons of South County Community Services (SCCS) at the Fulton fire station, Pavilion Township office and the Vicksburg United Methodist Church which is right across from fire station number two.
Several of the police and firefighters took part in the SCCS Shopping with a Hero event at Meijer’s Thrifty Acres store near Schoolcraft.

Their big contribution to the Christmas in the Village parade was decorating their firetrucks with thousands of lights and winning first place in the fire truck division.

Activities for Kids at the Vicksburg District Library

Nisajwen 2
Nisajwen Topash loves to visit the Vicksburg District Library, especially during Christmas break.

By Eric Hansen

There are numerous opportunities for young people to enjoy socialization and learning at the Vicksburg District Library, said library Director John Sheridan. In December alone, the library offered 16 programs for children and youth from pre-K through teen years. Another seven programs at the library were managed by outside presenters, including two local Girl Scouts troops.

On each weekday, the library provides computer access to students who come after school to play video games and access the Internet. Other groups of teens and pre-teens come to socialize quietly or study before they go home for the evening. “This makes the Vicksburg District Library a safe and educational stopover for young people who need to wait for a ride home or must wait for a parent or guardian to come home from work,” Sheridan said.

One of these young people, Nisajwen, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, explained that he “likes the wide selection of books and using computers to learn things and play games.” Nisajwen’s mother also likes the way that he is involved with our Bulldog Break program that includes Wii U games, socialization, and snacks, and with other programs for kids. That family offers service back to the community by volunteering to work in the obituary collection, while also having the benefit of the pleasant social environment full of stories and information, Sheridan pointed out.

Other families, such as the Veldermans, are part of Vicksburg’s significant homeschooling community and use the library’s books, DVDs, and MeL interlibrary loan resources to educate their children. Kate, Louisa, Luke, and Will Velderman described their favorite school subjects, listing science, math and history. Luke shared that his current project was writing an essay about University of Michigan football.

The library’s homeschooling assistance extends to Stephanie Willoughby’s book club for homeschooled students. This monthly meeting provides social value while augmenting homeschooling – it is meant as an opportunity to discuss books outside of students’ homeschool curriculum with other young people. “It fosters strong social relationships while students discuss books they love,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby, the youth services librarian, also purchases compelling graphic novels and books for different age groups. She and other staff assist young people in learning by using their skill set in dealing with children and prior experience working in college education. Willoughby is eager to receive suggestions for purchasing new books and resources that prepare young people for the future. Even though it is not possible to fulfill every purchase request, the library staff enjoys learning what youth in the community need in order to succeed.

Confusion Highlights the Fire Authority Board Meeting

fire authority
Fire Authority board members Colin Bailey a representative from the village of Vicksburg and Randy Smith a representative of Brady Township, shake hands during an earlier meeting.

By Sue Moore

South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA) members balked at a request for quick bylaws changes from Trustee Randy Smith after he announced he was leaving his post as Brady Township Supervisor in May and with it, his post on the Authority as of December 31.

By the end of a contentious December meeting, the board members insisted they’ll take a couple of months to discuss the changes with their respective village and township elected officials.

Brady said he expects to be replaced on the township board by Tracy Locey, who holds a paid position as treasurer of the fire authority. Serving on both the governing board and as a paid employee appeared to some other delegates to pose a potential conflict.

Smith presented a draft of bylaws to deal with that issue prepared by Craig Rolfe, the authority’s attorney. The draft was not made public at the meeting.

His announcement that Locey would fill his position appeared to blindside other authority members when Smith presented the bylaws changes he said would enable the transition to take place. Smith asked board members to flesh out the proposed changes and bring them to their respective township boards and village councils.

The bylaws changes would provide for hiring a recording secretary, a person who would also serve in a paid position as treasurer and retain a seat on the authority board – in the expectation that Locey would fill the post.

Some authority members complained about short notice. Smith said he had told board members in a closed meeting a year ago that he would retire in May and that the authority had done nothing in the meantime to prepare for the proposed changes.

Smith appeared to be asking other members for a vote at the December meeting, or at least to take the new wording back to their respective boards. But others said it isn’t clear if they had the power to make a change to bylaws without consulting their fellow elected officials.

Colin Bailey, representing Vicksburg, said Locey succeeding Smith on the authority board wasn’t the issue: The issue was the way Smith handled the matter. Locey, he indicated, is very qualified to fill a position on the board. She has served as administrator and treasurer for many years and has met and exceeded expectations in those posts.

No officers of the authority board are paid. Todd Carlin, Schoolcraft village’s representative, said the issue should have gone to the human resources committee and then to each unit’s board for discussion as it has the potential to change the budget numbers.

Locey said she would only be paid as treasurer since only five percent of her time is allotted as administrator. Locey said there are ways to work around this issue.

Although Smith had said he would leave the fire Authority as of Dec. 31, he later indicated that Brady Township’s board would choose to keep him on the authority’s board for now. The township did so.