Category Archives: Vicksburg

Moore than Words

Photo by Leeanne Seaver.

By Leeanne Seaver

Everywhere anything was happening in Vicksburg, Sue Moore was there. In fact, it was usually Sue Moore who made it happen. Sue didn’t just have her hands in everything, she was the full immersion experience of participation. In the eighth decade of her remarkable life, she could still do more in a day than anyone half her age. When we think of her, who doesn’t see that 100-watt smile, her exuberance and energy … her generosity of spirit that was matched only by her humility? Sue didn’t give a hoot about getting credit for her epic deliverables … she always tilted the spotlight to others. Her love and devotion to this community was apparent in every issue of the South County News that she founded, but her true legacy can’t be contained by words. For generations to come, the legacy of her deeds will continue to breathe life into this place and its people.

Knowles Mourns Sue Moore

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg Community Schools Board President Skip Knowles honored Sue Moore, a former school board member and founder of the South County News, at the board’s June meeting. “We’ve all sustained a horrible loss in the death of Sue,” Knowles said. “Sue was a school board member and just super active in a lot of things, sat on the county commission, amongst other things. Always had the heart of the school system and made sure that things got reported accurately. Not the way we needed them necessarily but that they got reported accurately and told the whole story. I know all of us have a huge hole in our heart for the loss of Sue … just can’t leave that unsaid.”

‘I Have Never Seen Your Equal’

By Debra Christiansen

There’s a moment in the movie “The Princess Bride” when, prior to a duel between Inigo and the Man in Black, Inigo hands his sword to the Man in Black for him to inspect. The Man in Black looks the sword over and says, “I’ve never seen its equal.”

As an occasional contributor to the South County News over the years, when challenged by Sue to produce copy about Schoolcraft goings on for the paper, there was always great trepidation on my part when clicking “send” to email my paltry copy to her.

Sue’s blood ran news. In her words, “My parents started in the newspaper business in 1935. I was born into it in 1938 so you can see I had no choice but become a journalist.” Her wit and mind were razor sharp, and her standards were high. I could probably turn out a fairly good article for most occasions, but for Sue, I had to produce my best AND expect the article to come back for re-editing. “Write in the third person!” she would say. “Use quotes!” she would always add. I had a dream that one day I would submit copy and have Sue’s only response be, “CUT! PRINT!” Never happened. There was always a question to be answered, sentences to be tightened, and more quotes needed. I have never seen her equal.

There’s a moment in the movie “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” (1972) (which incidentally is the spoiler for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) when at the end of his life, Judge Roy Bean pours his heart out to his idol, Lily Langtry, with the line, “It has been an honor to adore you.”

Sue fought tooth and nail to stay out of the newspaper biz. She said, “Tried everything not to run a newspaper until the community came to me in 2012 and asked if I would get something together. I was 74 at the time and said, ‘Well, I will show you how it’s done in the first three issues and then turn it over to a paid person to run.’”

Never happened. Sue ran a schedule for the paper with a voracity and veracity that would have crippled the lesser, and always with the heart that knew and cared for everyone. I consider myself lucky to have been able to stand in her light and declare myself (Judge Roy Bean to Lily Langtry). And to Sue, (and you can quote me on this) “I have never seen your equal” and “It has been an honor to adore you.”

WOOF! From a Lucky Dog

Where have you gone? After just a short time together, we had become pals. What fun it was to go on walks with you and always get a treat. Good food and fresh water were waiting when I was hungry and thirsty. The best part was the rubs behind my ears. I’d give you a face lick for that.

Every day I got excited when I heard your car in the drive. We shared a lot of happiness. I apologize for chewing on your best purse. It felt good to sink my teeth into that soft leather. After obedience school, I learned what “NO” means and that shoes and purses are off limits for me.

Now I have a new home. I thought it was “Heaven on Earth” to be living with you, but my new caretaker is giving me treats and earning my affection. Things change, but I miss my best friend.

Trooper

Moore Was ‘Omnipresent’

Sue Moore orchestrates yet another photo shoot. Photo by Taylor Kallio.

By Darby Fetzer

We all knew when Sue Moore left this earth she would leave a big hole. We will miss her as editor and chief of the South County News, we’ll miss her as a positive community leader and community advocate, and we’ll miss her as our friend.

Sue was omnipresent … she was everywhere all the time reporting on local news. When I attended a board meeting or community event, I found her presence comforting. She was a friend in the room with a warm, supportive smile and a happy twinkle in her eye.

In her reporting, you could always count on Sue to cover a story with fairness and a positive, community-building approach. Her mere attendance at a function pulled people together. Sue was clear in her personal and professional intention: fortify, enrich, and grow local communities. She achieved that through supporting education, the arts, local businesses, municipalities, and people.

For the last year, I was blessed to enjoy a monthly luncheon with Sue and four other community-minded women. We called ourselves the “Wild Women.” This lunch was scheduled a day after the paper went to print. This was when Sue could finally take a breath. We thoroughly enjoyed this rich time of scintillating discussion around the topics of the paper, local politics, and our personal lives. We were aptly called the “Wild Women” as our table would often erupt in laughter. Martell’s restaurant finally got smart by seating us in a corner all to ourselves.

It’s been nearly a month since Sue’s passing. I still can’t quite believe it. She’s done so much for Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and South County in print and simply through being herself.

Perhaps we could all be just a bit more loving and generous of spirit as we connect with our community members; maybe then, Sue’s spirit can live on in all of us.

What I Admired About Sue

By Linda Lane

What I admired most about Sue:

She was inclusive. She gave new people a chance to be included and tapped them for their skill set. 

She believed each of us could make a difference. She knew some would, and some wouldn’t.

She was dedicated to working hard for what she was committed to.

She would fight for truth. And she would tell the story. But she knew life was complicated.

She always tried to do what was right and what was best for all.

She was an inspiration to many. She was a trailblazer for women to be involved and active in the government and the community. She was a good leader.

She had a big heart. She shared it with many people.

She was humble. She gave credit to others and shied from being in the spotlight.

It was hard for her to say no. She wanted to do it all, and although it was hard for her to ask for help, she knew when it was necessary.

There is no replacing her. She’ll be immensely missed, because she truly was extraordinary.

VCAC Rethinks Summer Programming

Layla, Ilya, and Cooper Keesler of Schoolcraft tested the VCAC collage kits.

By Syd Bastos

With social distancing requirements and concerns for safety, the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center needed to figure out how it could continue to deliver on its mission to inspire, educate and enrich Vicksburg through cultural and artistic experiences.

First, it created a virtual gallery called “art2share,” a way for people to share their art works based on a weekly theme. Although the program ended June 21, the virtual gallery can still be viewed at its website, vicksburgarts.com. It also created “Your Square Matters”, a collage of pictures provided by people in our community. Pictures represent special places, people and things that matter to those who submit their photos. The collage is in the window of the VCAC at 105 S Main and it is continuing to accept photographs to add to the collage.

But what could it possibly do to replace the cancelled week-long summer camp originally planned for June? The Board of Directors looked at what others around the state and country were doing and came up with “Art to Go.” Each week during the summer, the VCAC is creating a new kit suitable for kids from 5 to 18 with all materials needed, along with instructions to make at least one project. The kits are between $5 and $10 and include weaving, clay molding, painting, mixed media, collage and even metal forming! Scholarships are available.

The VCAC’s current location is a wonderful cozy venue for small concerts. But that just won’t work in this Covid-19 environment. Krista Grotelueschen, VCAC’s Acting Executive Director worked with Vicksburg Village Manager Jim Mallery to come up a plan that could provide a great venue while complying with safe distancing. “Concerts at the Park” was born! Concerts will be held on consecutive Thursday nights July 23 and 30, and August 6 and 13th from 7-8:30 p.m. and will be centered around the gazebo on the Historic Village grounds on Richardson Street in Vicksburg. Krista said, “We have confirmed the Duffield/Caron Project, The Phillips Boys and Jerry Phelps and are working on final details for the last band. We invite everyone to attend – bring a blanket, lawn chairs and enjoy being out in our community!” Current guidelines for distancing will be strongly encouraged.

Lastly, the Tournament of Writers normally announces winners of the annual writing competition at the Schoolcraft Public Library with a packed crowd filling its Community Room. The Library is currently open for curbside service only, so instead, the VCAC promises a fun Live Facebook event on June 15 at 5:30 p.m. to announce the winners with posts on its website and social media immediately after.

For more information, contact VCAC at info@vicksburgarts.com, follow on Facebook or call (269) 200-2223.

Vicksburg Library Reopens

By Eric Hansen
Director, Vicksburg District Library

The staff of the Vicksburg library is happy to announce that we have re-opened. We are implementing some additional programming and new safety measures to serve the community!

Please return items that you have had for several months. We are waiving fines accrued during our mandatory closing.

Be aware that we have added curbside service to help patrons receive our services without leaving your car. This service relies on our reservation system that many patrons have used before. If you call the library or go to the website then you can place holds on items. After our staff pull the items, we will call you and set an appointment for pick-up, and after you arrive, we will bring the items down to your car. For more details please call (269) 649-1648 or go to the library’s website at http://www.VicksburgLibrary.org.

Please be aware that we are adding some online services for adults and children. Information about these programs is available on the library’s Facebook page, or by visiting the library’s calendar online at http://www.VicksburgLibrary.org/calendar/

When you visit the library, we require that you wear a mask and observe the safety and social distancing guidelines required by the State of Michigan. Information about these requirements is posted at the building and on our website.

If you have questions then please call the library at (269) 649-1648, or e-mail us at Info@VicksburgLibrary.org. Thank you!

Vicksburg Council, Historical Society, Reach Agreement

By Jef Rietsma

After a few months of negotiation, the Vicksburg Village Council June 1 approved a three-year agreement with the Vicksburg Historical Society.

Village manager Jim Mallery explained the details. “The historical society is responsible for approximately $1,000 per month for the utility expenses associated with the property. Those utility expenses will be reviewed prior to June 1 each year to assure they’re in alignment with what the lease agreement states,” he said. “Also, if this agreement would not continue after three years, the Historical Society would have 180-day advance notice of that.”

Mallery said he does not expect the village will have to exercise that clause, but it was added at the request of the Society. He said the two sides worked together in what he called a “win-win situation for each group.”

“We took what was at one time going to be a one-year agreement and moved it into a mutually beneficial, three-year agreement,” he said.

Next, Mallery addressed the issue of police brutality in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He vowed that such a situation will never happen in Vicksburg.

“I just wanted this council and the citizens we serve to know how deeply troubled I was as a person who has been involved in policing – troubled, disturbed, disgusted – the actions of those officers shocked my conscience,” Mallery said, adding that his personal philosophy related to policing is based on procedural justice, police legitimacy and providing while serving.

“Our fundamental, foundational obligation to citizens, as it relates to our officers interaction with them, is we treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their lot in life, regardless of their background, regardless of where they live in this village or live in this world, and specifically, regardless of the color of their skin.

“We treat human beings with dignity and respect, and those expectations will never waver in any organization I’m responsible for to deliver police services.”

In other action, Mallery requested that board president Bill Adams, and trustees Carl Keller and Rick Holmes remain as Vicksburg’s representatives to the South County Sewer Authority.

At a June 15 meeting, council members heard from council member Gail Reisterer regarding Mallery’s annual evaluation. She said Mallery has “again performed extremely well for us.”

“Out of a possible 480 points he achieved 424.5 of those points and an overall score of 4.4 out of a possible 5,” she said. “So, a nice, strong evaluation.”

Council members then heard from village treasurer Michelle Morgan regarding an ordinance related to delinquent taxes. Morgan said the ordinance puts unpaid funds on the village’s 2020 tax rolls unless the delinquent amounts are paid by the end of the calendar year. The deadline has always been the end of June, but Mallery said a concession was made this year only.

In all, there are 23 debts to the village, a higher number than usual, Morgan said. A burned house the village had to demolish contributed to the higher-than-normal number, she noted.

In advance of the village’s anticipated approval of its 2020-21 fiscal year budget June 29, Mallery provided more information. He started with good news, as Mallery said the village’s $45,000 state-shared revenue payment for June was at least 50 percent more than anticipated.

Mallery said the proposed budget reflects a 10 percent reduction in tax revenue and a 35 percent reduction in state funding from the prior year.

He said the village will analyze its budget every two months beginning in September. “I anticipate our amendments, especially on the revenue side through the 2020-21 fiscal year, will tick upward because of the conservative nature we’re structuring this budget.

“But, to present the budget under those constraints, you’ll see each of the departments are cut besides the elimination of part-time, which is seasonal staff, so we’re losing 80 hours a week at DPW,” Mallery continued, noting the department’s proposed budget is $328,225. “I don’t anticipate any service reduction to our citizens, though, under this budget. I believe we’ll be able to keep the same level of service.”

Its budget represents a 14.5 percent reduction from a year ago and reflects a staff of four full-time employees. He anticipated more discussion at a June 29 meeting to focus on the village’s capital investments, including a projected $225,000 pole barn for the DPW.

Mallery said the village for 2020-21 is budgeting allocations for a significant infrastructure project, eight parks, street maintenance and a comprehensive preventive-maintenance program.

Regarding police, Mallery said its recommended budget is $591,805, a 7.6-percent reduction from the 2019-20 fiscal year. It reflects contractual salaries and funding for a chief, five full-time officers, a school-resource officer and 24/7 police service.

“Our daily neighborhood canvassing will continue, all businesses within the village will be checked nightly, we have customer service follow-ups, we do year-round vacation checks, and starting here in July there will be organized weekly interactions with youth of Vicksburg throughout the summer months,” Mallery said. “And, I’m happy to report the Vicksburg Foundation did approve our grant request for body cameras.”

He expects officers to be equipped with the body cameras by the end of the calendar year.

Mallery said the village’s downtown development authority expects to dress up downtown with new U.S. flags, dog stations and seasonal flowers. In addition, the village plans to continue working with the Vicksburg Foundation and put $18,000 toward the downtown façade loan program. The foundation is awarding $12,000.

Vicksburg Schools Work with Funding, Bond Issue

By Jef Rietsma

It was a surprise to no one at a Vicksburg school board meeting that the district is looking at a grim financial picture for the 2020-21 academic year.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss provided an update on the district’s financial picture during the board’s June 8 meeting. It includes the possibility that the district may receive $700 less per pupil from the state.

There was a ray of sunshine a week later as the district received a lower-than-estimated interest rate on a bond issue to finance improvements which will save more than $4 million in principal and interest payments over the 20-year bond issue.

Per-pupil funding from the state comes from a six-mill statewide school property tax and earmarked portions of income, sales and use taxes and other revenues. Tax revenues have been reduced by an estimated $1.2 billion for the 2019-2020 school year and $1.1 billion for the 2020-2021 year. Michigan schools have been advised to plan for a cut in per-pupil funding by between $650 and $700. “We all hope that there is a federal package to backfill those revenues. But at this point, that doesn’t exist.”

Goss said he has made the determination that a budget amendment to the 2019-20 school year and a preliminary budget for 2020-2021 will have to reflect a reduced per-pupil amount of
$700. That amounts to a loss of nearly $1.9 million this school year and carryover to 2020-21. Current per-pupil allocation from the state is $8,111.

“So, when we get more guidance and we figure out what the school year looks like, then there will be adjustments to reflect whatever that reality looks like.”

Goss said the district is assuming enrollment will be flat in 2020-21. Another thorn to the budget is an additional $340,000 in contractual obligations – primarily salary increases and a bump in insurance expenses – set for 2020-21.

Goss said he anticipates about $495,000 in savings through attrition.

“We know we’re going to have to look at all the employee groups and find some way to recoup some savings, and we’ve estimated about $140,000 from other employee groups as well,” he said.

Furthermore, there is about $386,000 in capital outlay in the current budget that will all be deferred, Goss said, adding that the district is hoping to realize about $125,000 in savings through supplies and contracted services as well.

Goss said the 2019-20 fiscal year budget, which concludes June 30, had been projected to have a positive balance of about $45,000.

“When we shut down in mid-March, we quickly tried to capture all the savings we could. We basically went into shut-down mode and that saved some money.” In all, not having school for three months saved the district about $75,000, he estimated.

Finally, he said by potentially reducing the number of full-time-equivalent positions, the district stands to save an additional $400,000.

“If we reduce all of those, we could reduce the projected shortfall to about $225,000,” he said.

“But a lot of it is really going to depend on what guidance we receive on how we have to operate in the fall, what happens if there’s additional funding identified by the state, what is the actual pro-ration that we’re looking at … there’s just too many things up in the air right now to actually implement a lot of these cuts.”

Board members approved amendments to the 2019-20 fiscal year budget and adopted an appropriations resolution for its 2020-21 budget.

Goss reported two bids for partial roofing replacement and the middle school and Tobey Elementary. The total cost of about $280,000 came in less than budgeted, Goss noted.

Nine proposals for two roofing-bid packages were received. Arrow Roofing and Supply of Grand Rapids was the low bidder and approved to do the job at Tobey for $105,570. Quality Roofing Inc. of Livingston County was awarded the middle school contract for its bid of nearly $175,000.

In addition, the board acknowledged the retirements of food service employees Cara Brink (21 years of service) and Leslie Tuttle (13 years), secretary Michelle Fulton (19 years), educator Tammy Lovins (28 years), and teachers Ginny Ruimveld (31 years) and Donna Sink (34 years).

At a later meeting, there was some better financial news as bids for bonds to finance capital improvements came in at an interest rate of just under two percent.

The bond issue was expected to raise $17,215,659 for the construction fund. It raised about $174,000 more than that. Total principal and interest costs over 20 years were expected to be $24.8 million. At the low interest rate, the actual total debt service is $20.65 million, more than $4 million less than original estimates.