Schoolcraft increases ordinance enforcement

By Rob Peterson

Schoolcraft village police will begin enforcing right of way regulations and some parts of the zoning ordinance on residential streets, taking over the role from village hall staff.

The changes mean that infractions will be enforceable immediately.

The right-of-way on residential streets extends 33 feet on either side of the centerline of the road and can include sidewalks and buried utilities requiring access. At times, accessing the utilities is an emergency situation.

Some property owners park their cars in the right-of-way, which can be a safety hazard, according to Village Manager Cheri Lutz. Some owners pave the land along the street, which can cause drainage issues for neighboring property, she said. And if a utility crew needs to dig where a car is parked, towing the vehicle is sometimes required if the owner isn’t available to move it.

Under prior council direction, staff was not as aggressive in enforcing these infractions, according to Lutz. “Schoolcraft is an attractive community, and having cars parked in front yards is negatively impacting the appearance.”

The current village council has asked staff to make the changes and increase enforcement. “We need to back the staff who are tasked with enforcing these ordinances,” said Council Member Michael Rochholz. “If we’re not going to enforce what we have, we should throw it all out.”

“Everyone is trying to be diplomatic,” said council President Keith Gunnett, “but it’s something we need to do.”

The Village will communicate the increased enforcement efforts through a newsletter and social media posts. Staff members will also work to be user-friendly and give residents time to make corrections.

Because the village includes many historic homes, some properties don’t have enough land for a driveway. For some, the location of a septic system makes a driveway impractical. Lutz indicated that the village will work with residents in situations like these to find alternatives or provide a waiver, if that’s appropriate.

“This will be fair and respectful,” said Lutz. “At the end of the day, it will make a positive difference.”

Residents can expect to see changes in the way these laws are enforced within the next few months. Those wishing to give their opinion on the matter may attend council meetings or write a letter to the Village.

In district four bowling, boys place third, girls tenth

By Mark Blentlinger

Schoolcraft’s boys began the Division 4 regional bowling championships in Jackson on a high note: On the first of four games, the team had a combined score of 819 with a high score of 192 from Kyle Fleck. On the second, they rolled an 823 with Max Desmond leading with 208. On the third, the Eagles rolled 820 with Fleck again leading with 179. In game four, the score was 866 with Desmond rolling 212, Fleck 206 for a team total of 3,328.

That left the Eagles 34 pins shy, finishing in third place behind Hackett Catholic Prep in second and Homer winning the regional.

Desmond and Fleck placed among the top 10 individuals; with Desmond in third, Fleck in fifth, sending them to individual state championships in Canton on March 27.

In that contest, Fleck ended up in 30th position against 60 other bowlers, rolling 1,019 with a high game of 199. Desmond ended up in 18th with a total pinball of 1,075 and a high game of 213. He was just 14 pins shy of moving on.

The Eagle girls’ team struggled on the lanes on their day, not really getting anything rolling. At this level, strikes are preferred but spares are a must, and with the oil pattern being pretty unforgiving, the Eagles struggled getting both. In game one, the Eagles rolled a 610 with senior Maya Pearce having a 149. Game two was 628 with Pearce leading again with a 151. The third game ended with 585; sophomore Catie Wright led the Eagles with 157. Game four, the best of the day, ended with 669; again, Maya Pearce rolled the high game with 181.

Hanover Horton walked out with the trophy, topping second place Bronson by 28 total pins, 3,172 to 3,144. The Eagles finished in 10th place with 2,492.

Boys’ and girls’ teams in past years competed on the same Friday in regionals, with the two three teams in both genders competing for a state championship on the following weekend. On Saturday, individuals competed for the Top 10 and competition for a state championship.

This year, Division 4 boys competed on Friday at the Jax 60 lanes in Jackson, while the girls competed Saturday. The MHSAA made other changes to the tournament format.

Eagle wrestlers: District champions

By Mark Blentlinger

Coach Rob Ling took his Eagle grapplers into district championships on March 20. The Eagles didn’t disappoint, beating White Pigeon 63-11 to emerge as district champions.

The team also crowned six individual district champions: Ryan Ling, Jett Gott, Tagg Gott, Jimmy Downs, Hunter Martens and Gary Cramer, and the Eagles sent 10 individual wrestlers to regional championships on March 27.

First the team had to wrestle at the regional team championships in Cassopolis on the 25th. The Eagles faced off against Lawton, the high school Eagles’ Coach Lings had attended. The Eagles came out on top, winning the regional championship, 36-31, with wins from wrestlers Calib Lipscomb, Gary Cramer, Riley Cochran, Jett Gott, Tagg Gott, Jimmy Downs and Connar Webb.

This win sent the Eagles to another team state championship on March 30th at the Wings Event Center. There, the wrestling season ended for both the Hudson Tigers and the Schoolcraft Eagles. Both teams had wrestled with an ineligible wrestler. Hudson had won the match 61-15.

On the 27th, it was the individual wrestlers’ turn, either to win a regional championship or head to state as an individual. Although no Eagles would be crowned regional champions, five punched their ticket to the state championships on April 2-3 at VanAndel Arena – Carsten Svoboda 103, Layne DeLoof 119, Gary Cramer 135, Tagg Gott 189 and Jimmy Downs 215.

Schoolcraft in state wrestling championship

By Mark Blentlinger

Following Schoolcraft’s victories in March district contests, in April it entered five wrestlers in individual state championships at Van Andel Arena: Carsten Svoboda at 103 pounds, Layne DeLoof at 119, Gary Cramer at 135, Tagg Gott at 189 and Jimmy Downs at 215.

Downs scratched his chance at a championship when contact tracing indicated he might have contracted COVID-19, leaving him unable to compete for his final event.

Tagg Gott was the first Schoolcraft wrestler on the mat, facing Justice Onstott of St. Louis. The match went all three periods and Gott squeaked out the win with an 8-7 score, sending him to quarterfinals.

Svoboda was pinned by Trennen Smith of Mio, sending him into the loser bracket. He won his first match by receiving a bye.

DeLoof faced Ayden Sturtevant-Roes from Hesperia. That match went all three periods, but DeLoof was unable to put any points on the board and lost 9-0. He then entered the consolation round where it’s win or go home. He was pinned by Memphis’ Troy Trombley.

Cramer wrestled Aden Baynes of Lainsburg. After the first period, the score was 0-0. Cramer pinned his opponent with 40 seconds to go in the 2nd period, sending him onto the next round.

DeLoof faced Troy Trombley of Memphis in the consolation round. He held his own but was eventually pinned to end his run at state.

Svoboda faced an opponent he had already seen this season: Caleb Mallory from Lawton. Down 0-5 at the end of the first period, Svoboda never gave up. His season ended with Mallory pinning him with a minute left in the 2nd period.

At 135 pounds, Cramer was up against the number 1 seed, Harris Raab from Bark River. Raab had a 30-1 record while Cramer was at 24-3. With 51 seconds left in period 2, Rabb got Cramer on his back, continuing to the semi-finals.

Gott wrestled Russel Wilson from Whittemore Prescott. At the start of the third period, Gott was down 0-1, but he turned it around and ended up winning 6-3, advancing to the semi-finals.

Cramer won his next 2 matches. With 1 more win, Cramer wrestled for 3rd place. His opponent was Landis Gillman of Clinton High School. With the score 4-4 with a minute left, Gillman achieved the takedown and advanced onto the 3rd place match, sending Cramer to the 5th or 6th place match. There, he fell just shy of 5th place, losing 3-5 and finishing in 6th.

In semi-final competition, Gott was matched with Logan Badge. Gott was pinned by the eventual State Champion, sending him to the 3rd place match where he faced Kody Krupp of New Lothrop. Gott ended his sophomore season in 4th place, losing the match 6-12.

Sunny days in South County

Some of the artists behind the “Mind of Mine 2021” art exhibit pose in front of Prairie Ronde Gallery in Downtown Vicksburg, where the event will kick off May 14.

We hope you enjoy our May edition. It is filled with news of local organizations and some new features, including a monthly column about collections and our fourth recipe offering.

Thanks to our advertisers and readers for your support of our little paper. It allows us to continue to bring you the good news!

May Meander in the Historic Village

The Vicksburg Historical Society will be celebrating its 2021 opening season with the organization’s May Meander. The event will be held at the Historic Village on May 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. It is free to the public, all the buildings will be open and COVID-safe refreshments will be served. Local service groups and businesses are invited to register for booth space. The Historical Society will also kick off the 2021 Speaker Series at 2 p.m. in the Township Hall building. Organizations and individuals looking to find out more can visit vicksburghistory.org/meander.

Vicksburg Farmers Market

The board of the Vicksburg Farmers Market is busy preparing for its 12th season. President Stella Shearer says everything will be ready for the market opening day on May 21. The Vicksburg Farmers Market is held Fridays from 2-6 p.m.

Johnson Performs at Concordia University, Nebraska

Concordia music students performed in the annual Spring Honor Recital on March 30 that was livestreamed on the music department’s Facebook page. Nathan Johnson, junior, from Vicksburg, played “Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40, no. 2” by Frederic Chopin during the annual Spring Honor Recital on March 30, livestreamed on the music department’s Facebook page.

Preston Earns All-Conference Honors at Angelo State University

In San Angelo, Texas, seven members of the Angelo State University Belles volleyball team, including Morgan Preston of Vicksburg, have earned Lone Star Conference postseason awards for their performances during the 2021 spring season that saw the Belles win their second straight LSC Championship.

Rosey Named MIAA Athlete of the Week

Trine University freshman Adrienne Rosey, from Schoolcraft, has been named this week’s Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) softball pitcher of the week. Rosey came up with three key appearances during the week as the team finished 5-1. In total, she finished the week with 16 strikeouts in 10 innings, while allowing just four hits and two runs for an ERA of 0.70.

Old Car Festival is Back

The 40th Vicksburg Old Car Festival June 11 and 12. More details to follow in the June edition of the South County News.

“Mind of Mine 2021” Art Exhibit

This year’s AP Drawing Art students enrolled at Vicksburg High School have the opportunity to share their original pieces in the Prairie Ronde Gallery in Vicksburg. The students titled their collective work “Mind of Mine 2021.” This exhibit will allow each student to reveal his or her personality to the public in a different light.

This event will be held in person with mask and social distancing requirements. The opening reception will be on Friday, May 14th from 6-8pm, with showings on Saturday, May 15th 2-5pm and Sunday, May 16th from 2-5pm. Digital galleries and more information on the event can be found at vicksburgarts.com.

Schoolcraft Library news

Tom Long works on changes to the children’s area.

By Pam Ballett

As of March 29, the Schoolcraft Library is open at limited capacity for browsing, making copies, faxing and scheduling one-hour computer appointments. The library’s history room will also be available to schedule one-on-one, one-hour tutoring sessions.

Registration for Tot Time and Preschool Story Hour began on April 1. This six-week program begins April 12 and will run through May 18.

Tot Time is a 30-minute program for children 18 to 36 months and their caregivers. Activities include stories, fingerplays, songs, movement and learning concepts. Free play is not offered at this time.

Preschool Story Hour is for children 3-5 years old and includes stories, flannelgraphs, songs and a craft. Adults in attendance are required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Space is very limited, so call the library at 679-5959 or email misspam@schoolcraftlibrary.org to sign up.

On April 7, the Adult Book Club will meet at 2 p.m. at the library. “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee will be discussed. Masks and social distancing guidelines will apply. Call to reserve your spot!

The Schoolcraft Community Library is located at 330 N. Centre Street, (269) 679-5959, http://www.schoolcraftlibrary.org.

This friendly village

By Marilyn Jones, Schoolcraft’s Poet Laureate

Everyone seems to know I had a birthday
Lovely cards, visits, and gifts were fun,
My kids took me out to eat
March days showed off, with a warm sun.

How many towns have a library delivery service?
I just make a list of books and DVDs,
When they come in, a library friend delivers
For that personal service, there are no fees.

Their smiling faces are such a welcome sight
Cyndie and Bobbie will be having Book Club soon,
The pandemic is on its way out
I’m hoping things will be “normal” by June.

Cheerful greetings from Tom, Roxanne and Pam
Always give me a happy lift too,
They have all become good friends
During lonely months, they provided
Something to do!

The phone rang and Sheri told me
“I’ll drop off a movie you asked for”
What a surprise…she had a gorgeous bouquet
Spring flowers were such a lovely surprise,
With a special card, it made my day.

I asked, “Do all your customers get flowers?
She laughed and said, “No, only you.”
The special treatment is a blessing to me
Isn’t that a generous thing to do?

Schoolcraft village council sets goals for 2021

By Rob Peterson

The Schoolcraft Village Council set 2021 goals at a March meeting, following a discussion at a special meeting in February where two overriding themes were creation of a sanitary sewer committee and strategizing for economic development and revitalization.

The council also indicated its intention to continue working on goals it had set in 2020, which include encouraging economic development and reviewing all possible revenue generating options. Revenue generation may include asking voters for a Headlee override.

The 1978 Headlee Amendment to the Michigan constitution requires a local government to reduce its millage rate to prevent total valuation of all property in the community from rising faster than the rate of inflation. A Headlee override asks voters to increase a millage to previous limits authorized by charter, state law or previously voter-approved limits.

The amendment did not limit how quickly tax revenues must be reduced when property values decrease, as they did during the recession. As property values rebounded, another constitutional amendment restricted Schoolcraft from increasing taxable value to keep up with market prices.

Schoolcraft may look at three choices: find a way to grow tax revenue through new development; grow tax revenue through a Headlee override; or cut services.

In recent years, the Village has been able to stave off all three options because of an unusually large fund balance, which today is nearly 100% of a typical year’s revenues. To balance its budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, the council approved dipping into this balance by $106,000.

Related to this discussion, Finance Director Tammi Youngs noted that the Village does not have a fund balance policy. She presented a draft policy to the council that was based on her research of federal standards as well as policies in similar municipalities in Michigan.

A fund balance policy is not an exact science and must be based on a number of factors. “Because we are a smaller community, we are more susceptible to swings in revenue and expense,” Youngs said.

Based on her recommendation, the council approved a policy that will set its fund balance to 40% of expected annual revenues. With that policy, the council has roughly four years of excess cash before it will need to make major adjustments to revenue or expenses.

Council members discussed whether they could increase revenues by investing their fund balance rather than keeping it in cash. Youngs replied that there are restrictions on how a municipality can invest, adding that “The goal is to keep everything safe; to keep the money we have and not lose it.”

The current year budget, as well as budgets going back to 2016, are available on the Village’s website.

In other action, the council increased water rates by 3% for the third year. Council member Mike Rochholz asked if the Village has set aside enough for capital improvements in the water system. Village Manager Cheri Lutz responded that staff will review the needs for capital improvements and include them in any rate increase recommendations next year.

Village staff and the council had decided to step up enforcement of ordinances which create safety issues, and the pushback from residents has caused the council to create an ad-hoc committee to review regulatory ordinances.

The Fourth of July celebration has been officially postponed until 2022. After discussions with those who plan the event, it was determined that there is too much work and expense that must take place now with no guarantee that the event will happen.

The council also postponed the usual July 4 community-wide garage sales.

Schoolcraft hires new superintendent

Schoolcraft school board members welcomed the district’s next superintendent. Front row, from left, are board Secretary Katie Redmond, superintendent-designate Rick Frens and President Jennifer Gottschalk. Back row, from left, are Trustee Adam Haley, Treasurer Wade Rutkoskie, Vice-President Jason Walther, and Trustee Randy Blankenship. Frens starts July 1.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Board of Education in March hired Rick Frens as the district’s next superintendent effective July 1. He will replace Superintendent Rusty Stitt, leaving after 10 years with the district.

Frens is originally from Grand Rapids and attended Grand Rapids Christian Schools before going on to Hope College, where he played football and majored in special education. He taught special education in nearby Wyoming before moving to southern Maine where he taught special education at Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine. After his wife Meg was offered an athletic trainer position at Hope College, they moved back to Michigan.

From there, he resumed his special education work at Grandville High School while also earning a master’s degree in educational leadership at Grand Valley State University. Frens’ first job in administration was assistant principal at Kelloggsville Middle School. He also served as assistant principal at the high school there. For the last eight years, Frens has served as Hamilton Middle School’s principal.

In addition to his administrative work, he has also served on the executive board of Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. Frens has also been highly involved with athletics, serving on the executive board of the Ottawa-Kent Athletic Conference and coached football and track at Grandville.

“I feel my professional and personal experiences have prepared me well to lead in Schoolcraft and maintain the positive forward momentum of the district,” Frens said in an email. “We have so many great resources including strong academics, a top-notch team of staff members, a bond construction project and solid community support.”

Frens and his wife have three children. Their son, Sam, is set to graduate from Hamilton High School this year and will attend Hope College in the fall. Their older daughter, Nora, is a freshman. Their younger daughter is a fifth grader. It seems they already have the spirit for Schoolcraft too.

“Paige hasn’t taken off her Schoolcraft Eagles hat since it was dropped off the other day,” Frens told the board at the meeting.

Board members and building administrators at the end of the meeting congratulated Frens on having earned the job.

Schoolcraft student activities continue amid COVID

Some of the food collected by students.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Students and staff at Schoolcraft High School have adapted and adjusted to many difficulties during the last year. Despite the challenges, student opportunities exist.

Matthew Dailey, Schoolcraft High School principal, speaks highly of his staff. “They have transitioned through all forms of teaching and learning this year and have done so with grace, the utmost professionalism, and a high degree of effectiveness on behalf of our kids.  I am proud of the challenges they have accepted and the opportunities they have continued to create for our kids.”   

Lori Pelton, Schoolcraft High School’s National Honor Society advisor, shares that the Society’s induction ceremony is April 7. Last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, so this year’s induction will include those members who were eligible last year as well as this year’s inductees. Masks will be worn, and the ceremony will be held in person.

Chris Kato, Schoolcraft High School’s Student Council advisor, said activities continued this year with modifications for COVID guidelines. The Student Council meets via Zoom on Monday mornings, which is the school’s virtual school day. The group consists of 40 members, representing grades 9 through 12. 

In the fall, the student group planned and facilitated Fall Fest 2021, an adapted version of the school’s traditional Homecoming festivities. The group sponsored spirit week activities at school, including hallway decorating and dress-up days. The school held an outdoor socially distanced ceremony to recognize the high school’s fall clubs and athletic teams, as well as to present the homecoming court.

The group also sponsored two blood drives this year. Kato said, “Typically those are held in our building, but due to COVID restrictions, we have partnered with Connections Community Church in Schoolcraft to hold the drives at their location.”

The National Honor Society and Schoolcraft High School’s student council teamed up to fill the shelves at the Eagles Nest this year. Both groups are collecting food and hygiene items until April 9.