Ottawa County

Ottawa County Courts Pause Jury Trials

Jury trials expected to resume in February

GRAND HAVEN – In consultation with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, the 20th Judicial Circuit Court and Ottawa County Probate Court will pause summoning the public to the courthouses to serve as jurors. The Courts intend to resume jury trials on February 1, 2022. All jury trials scheduled before February 1 will be adjourned and new dates will be set.

Trial Division Director Susan M. Franklin Promoted to Ottawa County Court Administrator

Following a 44-year career in the judicial system, including nearly 19 years in Ottawa County, Court Administrator Kevin J Bowling announced his plans to retire on January 14th. This announcement began a four-month recruitment and selection process that was completed earlier this month.

The national recruitment process resulted in numerous applications, including candidates from several Michigan jurisdictions, several states (AZ, CA, NV, PA, UT), and Canada. Based on the Interview Panel assessments, a thorough review of all application materials, and input from all judges, the Chief Judges selected Trial Division Director Susan M. Franklin as the next Circuit/Probate Court Administrator.

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Ms. Franklin’s credentials for this position include a Bachelor of Arts in English (GVSU), a Master of Public Administration (GVSU), and a Juris Doctor cum laude (MSU College of Law), as well as SCAO certifications (CEO, Mediation) and MSP LEIN certifications. As a member of the State Bar of Michigan (P66047) Ms. Franklin developed court specific experience serving as Law Clerk for the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo, before moving into private legal practice for 12 years with Williams Hughes, PLLC in Muskegon. For nearly four years, Ms. Franklin has served with distinction as the 20th Circuit Trial Division Director – leading many of our staff who directly assist the Circuit Judges and help maintain daily courtroom operations. In addition to being a State Bar member and member of the Ottawa County Bar Association, Ms. Franklin is an active member of the Michigan Association of Circuit Court Administrators and the National Association for Court Management.

Due to the hard work of all the Circuit/Probate judges and employees, the Ottawa County Courts have developed a reputation as a high performing jurisdiction. Building on this reputation of success, the Courts are looking forward to Susan Franklin’s leadership while pursuing strategic goals and continuing strong collaborative relationships with community, County, and State partners.

Ottawa County Commissioners Elect Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners unanimously elected Matt Fenske (District 11) as chairperson and Al Dannenberg (District 4) as vice-chairperson at the January 3rd, 2022 Ottawa County Board Organizational Meeting.

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Matt Fenske

Matt Fenske is in his third term as a County Commissioner and served as vice-chairperson since 2020. He has served on multitudes of County Boards and has chaired the Mental Health Board as well as the Agricultural Preservation Board. Prior to becoming an Ottawa County Commissioner for District 11, Fenske had a 33 year career with the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County. Fenske also serves Tallmadge Township on the Planning Commission and has sat on the Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Trustees in the past.

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Al Dannenberg

Al Dannenberg was elected County Commissioner in 2013 after a decade serving as a Zeeland City Councilman. He currently serves on the Health & Human Services Committee, the Planning & Policy Committee, the Community Mental Health Board, WEMET, the Solid Waste Planning Committee, the Food Services Appeals Board and the Zeeland Recreation Board. In addition to his numerous public service roles, Dannenberg is also a realtor and enjoyed a 35 year career at Mead Johnson.

Access services and learn more about the Ottawa County Commissioners at miOttawa.org 

Bella Named Top Dog in the County

For the fifth year running, the name Bella retrieves the top spot as the most popular dog name in Ottawa County 

The Ottawa County Treasurer’s Office has the list you’ve been waiting fur all year:  the most popular dog names and breeds from October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021 based upon the licenses issued. 

The most common dog names for Ottawa County are:

  1. Bella
  2. Charlie
  3. Lucy
  4. Luna
  5. Cooper
  6. Buddy
  7. Max
  8. Tucker
  9. Bailey
  10. Sadie

One look around your neighborhood and it’s not far-fetched that Ottawa County’s leading breed is the Labrador Retriever. Next on the list are 2-Golden Retriever, 3- German Shepherd, 4-Goldendoodle and 5-Shih Tzu. The top five breeds licensed the 2019-2020 were 1-Labrador Retriever, 2-Golden Retriever, 3-German Shepherd, 4-Chihuahua and 5-Shih Tzu. 

If Santa delivers a new, furry friend to your family this year, be sure to stay on that nice list and have your dog licensed with the County.

Since the year 1919 Michigan law has required that dogs be licensed. Additionally, the law requires that to get a dog license, proof of a rabies vaccination by a veterinarian must be provided. Along with ensuring that pet owners keep rabies vaccinations up to date, dog licenses save time, money and emotional distress. If a dog is lost, the license will make the return of the pet simple. When a stray is picked-up by animal control (or a friendly neighbor), a dog wearing its license will be returned to its owner quickly for a tail-wagging, slobbery reunion. The stray’s license number can be entered online by anyone at miottawa.org/DogLicense and the corresponding owner information will be displayed. Unlicensed dogs risk being brought to the animal shelter. The owner may face fines, redemption fees, boarding costs and vet bills. Pets who remain unidentified could be put up for adoption.

Dogs must be licensed at four months of age. In Ottawa County, dog licenses can be purchased at any time but are issued to expire the month of the dogs’ rabies vaccination. New licenses are available for either one or three years and will expire in the month of the rabies vaccination. Owners can purchase licenses through participating veterinarians, some units of government or online at www.miottawa.org/DogLicense. More information about licensing dogs in Ottawa County is available online or by calling 616-994-4501.

Ottawa County Releases the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan

Healthy Ottawa Council calls on residents to get involved in creating a healthier community

(OTTAWA COUNTY, MI) – A consortium of key health and human service leaders in Ottawa County, the Healthy Ottawa Advisory Council, announced the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan on November 15th, detailing the results of the 2020 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), and recommendations for how to create a healthier Ottawa County. The Council is calling on community organizations and individuals to get involved and be part of the solution.

More than 100 representatives from cross-sector industries, and more than 200 Ottawa County residents, participated in the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan to gauge the overall health climate of Ottawa County, and identify the top three health issues in the County. The top three areas of health concern for the County remained unchanged from 2018, and have likely been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic: access to care, mental health and healthy behaviors. The Healthy Ottawa Plan identifies these health concerns and their root causes, sets goals for each and provides recommended strategies for community agencies to use when developing programming. The plan also provides recommended strategies for individual community members to use as they make daily decisions impacting health. Implementation of the 2021 plan will begin in January 2022.

Some of the notable key findings in the 2020 CHNA include:

  • Access to Care
    1% of “underserved and vulnerable” adults had trouble meeting their healthcare needs in 2020. These same individuals identified high cost as the number one reason they had trouble meeting their healthcare needs in the last two years. Key informants also identified “the ability to afford out of pocket expenses like co-pays/deductibles” as the number one barrier to access to care.
  • Mental Health
    The 2020 CHNA showed that the pandemic had the greatest impact on Ottawa County residents’ mental health. Almost double the number of adults in Ottawa County identified being in “poor” mental health – 15.3% in 2020 compared to 8.8% in 2017. Three in 10 teens reported feeling sad and hopeless, and 4.9% of adults and 18.5% of youth thought about committing suicide.
  • Healthy Behaviors
    “Underserved and vulnerable” residents identify access to free or low-cost nutrition/healthy eating and access to free or low-cost fitness/exercise as top resources lacking in the community. Adults classified as obese increased from 29.9% in 2017 to 34.5% in 2020. The percentage of adults who consume less than one fruit per day increased to 43.6% and the percentage of adults who consume less than one vegetable per day increased to 31.8% in 2020.

In order to see the kind of positive change related to population health that the Council seeks in Ottawa County, many stakeholders are needed to actively engage in the work of addressing public health challenges. The Healthy Ottawa Council is asking for individual community members to take steps to better understand the greatest health challenges affecting themselves or their families and be involved in solutions. Recommended strategies can be found by reviewing the 2021 Healthy Ottawa Plan or by contacting Healthy Ottawa at healthyottawa.org/contact-us.

The priority health care concerns identified in past reports have guided strategies developed in previous Healthy Ottawa Plans, as well programming developed by local agencies and funding priorities by area foundations and organizations. Past successes include the development of the Suicide Prevention Coalition, Ottawa County Pathways to Better Health, Thrive Ottawa County and the expansion of the work of Ottawa Food. Funding from numerous agencies, such as those from the Healthy Ottawa Advisory Council, and grants from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation for the Holland/Zeeland Area have enabled the continued progress of these strategies.

Healthy Ottawa
The vision of Healthy Ottawa is healthy people living in healthy communities. Its mission is to achieve positive health outcomes for Ottawa County residents by partnering to identify health issues, plan, and implement strategic actions for change. Its values are equity, collaboration, excellence and best practice. More information about community assessments and planning can be found here.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program Deadline Approaches

submitted by Ottawa County
Deadline to apply for broadband internet credit is 12.30.2021; program becomes Affordable Connectivity Program on 12.31.2021

The temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB), launched in 2021 to help households afford high-speed internet service during the pandemic, is being replaced by a permanent Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Just like the EBB, the ACP will continue to provide eligible households with a discount on broadband internet service and connected devices.

Here’s a breakdown of what benefits these programs provide and how they’re changing in a question-and-answer format:

When does the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program switch over to the Affordable Connectivity Program?

The ACP officially supplants the EBB program beginning on Dec. 31, 2021.

What does the change mean for participants?

The discount drops from $50 to $30 per month. Currently under the EBB, eligible households receive discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, and a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. After the transitionary period, beginning March 1, 2022, households enrolled in ACP (formerly EBB) will receive $30 per month to go toward broadband service.

What does the transitionary period mean?

The Infrastructure Act provides for a 60-day transition period for households that were enrolled in the EBB Program before Dec. 31, 2021. This means households participating in EBB will continue to receive a $50 per month discount toward internet service through March 1, 2022. If a household applies after Dec. 30, if deemed eligible, they will receive the $30 per month benefit. You can still apply for EBB until Dec. 30, 2021 – see ‘Can I still sign up for EBB?’ section below for more information.

Do I need to reapply for the Affordable Connectivity Program?

Only if your household qualified for EBB due to loss of income because of a job loss or furlough beginning Feb. 29, 2020, or by meeting other eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s COVID program.

Will there be more options from providers?

Yes! Participating providers must now provide the ACP discount on any internet service offering they provide.

Can I still sign up for EBB?

Yes! Eligible households can and are still encouraged to apply for the EBB program through 6 p.m. Dec. 30. Those who enroll by 6 p.m. Dec. 30 will be eligible for the EBB subsidy during the 60-day transition period to the ACP. Those who enroll after Dec. 30 will be eligible for the applicable ACP monthly benefit, not the EBB. Please note that applying on Dec. 30 may not guarantee your household enrollment in EBB. If a household has a pending EBB Program application after EBB Program enrollments cease, that household’s application will be used for eligibility determination and enrollment in the ACP.

Do I qualify for EBB or ACP?

Visit getemergencybroadband.org/do-i-qualify to learn if your household qualifies for EBB. Once ACP is enacted, eligibility information will be posted on the Federal Communication Commission website. To learn more and watch for updates, please visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit periodically.

Van Allsburg Receives Prestigious Marilyn J. Kelly Award

The State Bar of Michigan recognized Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Jon Van Allsburg with the Marilyn J. Kelly Award for Outstanding Judicial Service in Family Law.

Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn J. Kelly was well respected for her keen knowledge of family law and her advocacy for youth and families engaged with the justice system. In 2015, the State Bar of Michigan established this Award in her honor, to recognize judges for significant contributions to family law in Michigan.

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Since his election to the 20th Circuit Court, Chief Judge Van Allsburg has handled a very busy Family Division docket and has been appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to serve as Business Court Judge and Chief Judge. In addition to his scheduled courtroom cases, Judge Van Allsburg authors numerous family law opinions, is active with the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is a frequent lecturer and presenter for judicial and attorney continuing education programs.

“Assisting families as they navigate complicated and often divisive legal situations is an extremely rewarding part of my service as a Circuit Court Judge,” said Judge Van Allsburg. “Promoting the rule of law with respect, compassion and patience for the litigants and attorneys appearing in Court is how we provide excellent public service while administering justice and resolving these often-complex court cases.”

Van Allsburg is an honors graduate of the Michigan State University College of Law and joined the Circuit Court in 2005 after a 25-year career in the practice of law, during which he served as chairman of the board of the Michigan West Coast (formerly Holland Area) Chamber of Commerce. He is Immediate Past-President of the Michigan Judges Association and will continue serving in the Family Division of the Circuit Court.

A Home for the Holidays: Ottawa Celebrates Adoption Day

20th Circuit Court, Ottawa County, hosted Adoption Day Celebration on November 23

The holiday season is a time filled with joy and gratitude for family. Many Michigan children, however, spend the holidays without a family to call their own. On November 23, the 20th Circuit Court celebrated Adoption Day, giving several families more to be grateful for as they head into the Thanksgiving holiday.

The ceremony began at 9:00am followed by confirmation hearings with Chief Probate Court Judge, Mark A. Feyen. The in-person event was limited in capacity due to social distancing; however, the public was invited to celebrate alongside the families and county staff via live streamed Adoption Day events on YouTube.

  • In fiscal year 2021, more than over 1,600 Michigan children were adopted through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or private agencies.
  • At any given time, there are approximately 11,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system and of those, nearly 200 lack an identified adoptive family.
  • People can adopt whether they are single or married. They do not have to be wealthy or own their own home but must have adequate financial resources to provide for a family.
  • Children in the foster care system become eligible for adoption following termination of parental rights due to abuse or neglect. The goal for most children in the foster care system is reunification with their families.
  • There is support for families who want to adopt. In fact, approximately 95 percent of children who are available for adoption qualify for assistance to help families with some of the costs of bringing children into their homes. More information is available at the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange website: https://www.mare.org/.

Typically, adoptions are finalized in private, but on Adoption Day, more than 30 courts statewide were expected to host virtual or in-person events, inviting communities to join in celebrating the families who choose to open their hearts to these children and provide them with their forever home. Our hope is that some others might be inspired to consider foster care and adoption.

Farm Planning and Networking Event – November 10th

‘Cultivating Connections’ to bring new and experienced farmers together for day of learning and networking

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An aerial view of the DeHaan farm in Blendon Township. (Courtesy image)

WEST OLIVE The DeHaan family knows to make hay while the sun’s shining. With help from a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant, their 37-acre Blendon Township farm has joined the list of preserved Ottawa County farms.

For Carson DeHaan, part owner and patriarch of the property, it was important to preserve. “The farm has been in the family since 1883,” he said. “I had to do something to preserve it.”

The DeHaans were able to protect their row crop and beef cattle farm from development through the county’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. This program uses a combination of state and/or federal grant funding, private donations, and landowner contributions to purchase the development rights to farmland, creating a permanent agricultural conservation easement. The DeHaan property is the fifth Ottawa County operation to utilize the PDR program, bringing the total number of acres protected to 443. In the DeHaans’ case, a $157,500 MDARD grant made preservation possible.

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“My grandson works with me on the farm,” said DeHaan. “I want to pass down these acres to him and my son when I retire.”

When looking to the future and retirement, many farmers face hurdles. For the DeHaans, it was helpful they had heirs in mind when they applied for the PDR program.

“Carson was concerned about the future. Having family members interested in taking the reins helps a lot,” said Ottawa County Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “Some farmers aren’t that lucky.”

Almost a third of farmers in Ottawa County are over age 65, and less than 10% are under 35. It can be difficult for a child to take over for aging parents. Factor in the cost of purchasing property and outfitting and operating a farm, and it becomes exponentially harder for someone without a farming background to break into the business. Combine these factors with the allure of making quick retirement cash by selling to a developer, and it’s no surprise Ottawa County lost 17% of its farms from 2012-2017.

Ottawa County is challenging this trend with the MiFarmLink Project – a public-private partnership that aims to shepherd prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful. MiFarmLink is jumpstarting this initiative with Cultivating Connections, an educational and networking event, on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, at the Holland Fish and Game Club.

“We’ve already gathered a slew of resources on our new website, MiFarmLink.org,” said Huttenga. “But it’s important that we get would-be, current, and experienced farmers under the same roof to learn, network, and build mentoring relationships.”

Besides introducing people to the MiFarmLink Project, this day of learning will offer workshops on how to use succession planning and mentorship.

jolene

The event kicks off with a succession planning workshop led by award-winning speaker, author, and agriculture champion Jolene Brown. An active farmer in eastern Iowa, Brown has written two books, is a regular contributor to Successful Farming Magazine, and is an inductee in the Council of Peers Award for Excellence (CPAE) Speaker Hall of Fame. Her morning session is more than a speech — it will be filled with relevant content and a 21-page workbook full of take-home solutions for farmers at all stages of their careers.

“Wow – wouldn’t this be something if it (succession planning) truly could be a positive experience?” said Brown in a prepared video message. “That we could make sure that senior generation is secure? That we could make sure we have the right people in the right place to continue the legacy of the land that means so much to us? Those are the issues that I want to address while I’m with you.”

Following Jolene Brown’s workshop and a networking lunch, separate educational breakout sessions for both experienced and new farmers will begin, and run through 4 p.m.

The day will wrap up with a networking happy hour sponsored by De Boer, Baumann & Company, PLC. Here attendees can talk with each other and with service providers who can help finance land, plan succession, and much more. Other event sponsors include Consumers Energy; Greenstone Farm Credit Services; the Ottawa County Farm Bureau; and AgriStrategies LLC.

Tickets are $15; visit bit.ly/mifarmlink_cc to register. Check out the official invitation and agenda here. To learn more about the program, visit MiFarmLink.org.

The MiFarmLink Project is a collaborative effort spearheaded by a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant administered through Ottawa County. This public-private partnership aims to help shepherd prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful. To learn more, visit MiFarmLink.org, or email info@mifarmlink.org.

About the Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8% of its farmed acreage and 17% of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit MiOttawa.org/Farmland.

The Farmhouse of Zeeland Wins Farms are the Tapas Chefs Competition

Nearly $20,000 raised for farmland preservation

Close to 100 people showed their support for farmland preservation on Thursday, Sept. 30, at Ottawa County’s fifth-annual Farms are the Tapas fundraising dinner and silent auction at Terra Square in Hudsonville, Mich. 

This year, chefs representing five area restaurants all created unique small plate dishes with locally raised ingredients for a chance at the coveted Harvest Knife award.

A chef from The Farmhouse of Zeeland (left) and Julie Lamer pose with the Harvest Knife award at the end of the event.

Competitors served up strong entries, including: pulled bacon sliders from Waverly Stone; steak baja cups from CityVu Events; braised beef tongue on a toasted baguette from Field & Fire; beef tenderloin braciloi street taco from StrEATs Taco Kitchen; and pulled pork egg rolls from The Farmhouse of Zeeland. It was a close contest, and it came down to the last few minutes of voting, but ultimately Farmhouse was the victor for the second-consecutive year.

“With unique ingredients such as beef tongue, our competing chefs served up variety,” said Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Specialist and event organizer Julie Lamer. “We are grateful such talented people prepare these signature dishes in the name of farmland preservation.”

To extend the reach of Farms are the Tapas and offer a remote option for supporting farmland preservation, Ottawa County ran the auction virtually.

“Virtual bidding proved to be popular again this year,” said Lamer. “Because we opened the silent auction three days ahead of time, we had aggressive bidding before the event even started!”

This year, the Farms are the Tapas silent auction featured 15 items, including perennial favorites such as a sunset cruise, 50 pound beef packages, as well as more unique items such as cookbooks and fine art by local creative talent. All together the silent auction raised nearly $3,000.

Guests enjoy sampling tapas during the Farms are the Tapas event on Sept. 30, 2021, at Terra Square in Hudsonville.

Including the auction items, sponsor support, and ticket sales, almost $20,000 was raised for Farmland Preservation. But Farms are the Tapas isn’t just about fundraising.

“It’s all about visibility. Events like Farms are the Tapas put the Farmland Preservation Program on the public radar,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “Many people don’t realize how much farmland is being lost year-over-year in this County, or that there is a mechanism in place to protect it.”

About the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

With area farmers producing more than $506 million in products annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County is an agricultural powerhouse. Ottawa is also the fastest growing county in the state and has a low unemployment rate. But this positive growth comes at a cost to agriculture: between 2012 and 2017, Ottawa County lost 8% of its farmed acreage and 17% of its farms. Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program seeks to protect this vital industry and slow the loss of farms and farmland through programmatic efforts, including the Purchase of Development Rights Program.

Funded through a combination of private donations and state and federal grants, the PDR program preserves farmland through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. This voluntary program allows participating landowners to receive compensation for the development potential of their land, yet still retain ownership and other rights associated with it through a permanent easement.

To learn more, visit MiOttawa.org/Farmland.

231 River Run Registration and Shirts

Register

Time is running out to secure your personalized bib and the shirt size you prefer. Shirt details are below and have changed recently.

If you haven’t already, register now for the 231 River Run on October 30. The 10K run and 4 mile run/walk make the event attainable for every fitness level. Space is limited.

If you don’t recall if you registered, you can check that here.

The purposes of the 231 River Run are to raise funds for and promote Ottawa County paved trails; advocate for wellness; build community; and showcase West Michigan as a healthy, active, growing and thriving region.

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Photo from 2018

Shirts

While it is true that real men wear pink, the dreaded supply chain has forced us to alter our shirt color. It will still be a long sleeve, soft combed and ring spun 52/48 cotton/poly unisex tee from Bella + Canvas. It just might not be mauve.  We’re rolling with it and have the shirt pictured in b/w until we know more. We apologize if you had your heart set on mauve like we did.

Choosing the correct shirt size is always a conundrum. To help, the size chart from the manufacturer is below. To keep the budget on track and more money going to the cause (trails), we do not over order shirts or have any to exchange for an alternate size.

sizes
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Get Social

While you are training, use the hashtag #231RiverRun. You can also tag Ottawa County – we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Be sure to also mark “going” on our Facebook Event and share it with your friends.

Shirt & Bib Pick Up

You can pick up your race shirt and bib on Thursday, October 28 from 3 to 7PM at the Ottawa County Administration Building or before the run on October 30 in the Connor Bayou Lodge Garage no earlier than 7AM.

Please thank our sponsors with your business!

This event would not happen without these amazing and generous businesses. Their gifts speak volumes about how much they care about the people in West Michigan.

Please make an effort to thank a few of them personally or with some love on social media. Use the hashtag #231RiverRun or tag Ottawa County so we can participate in your post and share it.

THANK YOU TO:

Enterprise Fleet Management | United Dairy Industry of Michigan | Nichols | Consumers Energy | Delta Dental | Priority Health | GCSI


Support Farmland Preservation and Eat Well on 9.30.21

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Farms are the Tapas chefs competition and local farms showcase raises funds for Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Program

West Michigan is in the midst of a growth spurt. Recently released 2020 Census data shows Ottawa County’s population is up 12.3 percent over 2010, making it the fastest-growing county in the state. With its strong economy, natural beauty, and access to fresh, locally produced food, it’s an attractive place to live. But with growth comes growing pains.

“Things have changed so much just in my 30-some years of adulthood,” said lifelong farmer and former Ottawa County Commissioner Matt Hehl. “I struggle to think if you can find a full 80 (uninterrupted acres of farmland) between Allendale and Hudsonville.”

What Hehl has noticed isn’t just anecdotal: from 2012-2017, the county lost 8 percent of its farmed acreage and 17 percent of its farms. These changes haven’t gone unnoticed. Ottawa County works to temper these losses with its Farmland Preservation Program, a program that in part was spearheaded by Matt Hehl during his time as a county commissioner. “For years we worked on farmland preservation. Eventually, we got the county board to take up (the issue) … We got it voted on, and it passed unanimously.”

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Hehlden Farms owner and operator Matt Hehl walks past the ‘Centennial Farm’ sign on his 35-acre property in Polkton Township. During his time as an Ottawa County commissioner, Hehl spearheaded creation of the Farmland Preservation Program.

Since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 400 acres have been preserved. And with applications seeking to preserve and protect over 1,350 acres of farmland so far in 2021, it’s clear the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program is gaining traction. But interest far outpaces funding. That’s where fundraising and advocacy events like Farms are the Tapas, set for 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at Terra Square in Hudsonville, come in.

“Programs like Farms are the Tapas benefit farmland preservation, just by getting the word out and getting it some exposure,” said Hehl. “It is a great preservation tool.”

Now in its fifth year, Farms are Tapas features a chef cooking competition; locally sourced small-plate creations; and a virtual silent auction, which will open Sept. 27. Once the auction opens, registered participants will be able to bid on items via a smartphone or other web-connected device. The auction closes at 7:45 p.m. Sept. 30, at the end of the live event. And, just like last year, you don’t need to buy a ticket to participate. Anyone can bid in the auction simply by registering online at Event.Gives/Tapas2021. Once registered, you can buy tickets, view event updates, peruse auction packages, and virtually bid on silent auction items.

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“Pivoting to a completely virtual registration and auction process last year worked out well,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “We were able to get the message out to more people. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we raised more in 2020 than in 2019.”

“Pivoting to a completely virtual registration and auction process last year worked out well,” said Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga. “We were able to get the message out to more people. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we raised more in 2020 than in 2019.”

Sponsorship opportunities for Farms are the Tapas are still available. Proceeds support farmland preservation in Ottawa County. To register for the silent auction or buy tickets, visit miottawa.org/tapas, and click on the ‘Tickets’ tab, or go directly to Event.Gives/Tapas2021.

“Farms are the Tapas is more than just an appeal for financial support,” said Farmland Preservation Specialist Julie Lamer. “It’s a showcase of the local agriculture industry.”

For more information on sponsoring Farms are the Tapas, to learn more about the PDR program, or how you can protect your fields, visit miOttawa.org/farmland, or contact a farmland preservation specialist at plan@miottawa.org or 616-738-4852.

COVID-19 notice

Your health and safety is of the utmost importance to Ottawa County. All recommended Ottawa County Health Department, state and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines will be followed.

We will adjust the format as necessary to ensure a safe event. We have structured this event so that we can be flexible. Please continue to check MiOttawa.org/Tapas2021 and Event.Gives/Tapas2021 for any updates.

About the Farmland Preservation Program
Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program is about more than just permanently protecting acreage through the purchase and donation of development rights for actively farmed property. The County’s farmland preservation specialists strengthen the program by addressing beginner farmer needs, increasing succession planning efforts, and numerous other programmatic efforts, including the MiFarmLink Project, a new public-private local support system for new and experienced farmers. For more information, visit MiFarmLink.org.

Ottawa County Administrator’s Exit is ‘Bittersweet’

Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator, submitted an official letter of resignation on July 27.

On August 27, 2021, Al Vanderberg will serve his final day as Ottawa County Administrator. Vanderberg began his tenure in 2003 and is the longest serving Administrator in Ottawa County history.

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“This decision was bittersweet,” said Vanderberg. “My family and I love Ottawa County. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as County Administrator. Ottawa County is in a very strong and stable condition. I felt I could leave and accept one more major challenge in my career.”

Vanderberg accepted the position as Kent County Administrator/Controller and will begin duties there on August 30.

“From the County’s elected officials and judges through department heads and down through the employee ranks, Ottawa County is blessed with an exceptionally competent, dedicated and collegial workforce,” adds Vanderberg. “I am confident that Ottawa County will continue to provide top notch governmental services and be a leader among Michigan’s counties.”

“We will miss Al a lot,” commented Board Chairperson, Roger Bergman. “Al exemplified the best of Ottawa County’s values and did innumerable things to springboard Ottawa County Government into the 21st Century. We know our neighbor to the east will find his services extremely valuable as we have for the past 18 years. We wish them well. We will take our time to find the best replacement to open the next chapter in Ottawa County Government.”

The County is engaging in a national search to replace Mr. Vanderberg.

Ottawa County Begins Citizen Survey This Evening, August 3 at 5PM.

Telephone calls will be made through August to residents’ landlines and mobile phones. Help make Ottawa County a better place by taking 15 minutes to answer the call and provide valuable feedback. 

Starting this week, Ottawa County adults will have the opportunity to give input on their satisfaction with local government services, priorities, tax burden, communication preferences and more. Ottawa County will begin its citizen survey on August 3. The survey was initiated in 2006 to monitor citizen satisfaction. The survey, originally planned for 2020, was delayed for one year due to the pandemic.

A total of 400 residents will be randomly selected and surveyed via phone by Lansing-based EPIC ▪ MRA. The telephone calls will be made through August to residents’ landlines and mobile phones. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. The survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete. If selected and called, resident participation is very important to the County. The information from the survey will help County leaders improve services, develop strategic plans, prioritize programs, allocate funds, and improve communication. Results are expected to be available early in the fall and will be reported at an Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting. Reports from surveys completed in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 are available at miOttawa.org.

“Information from this survey is an excellent gauge of whether or not our residents are satisfied. Are we meeting their needs? Are our priorities aligned with their priorities? And, are we doing this all within a financially acceptable means?” said Shannon Felgner, Ottawa County Communications Manager. “Our hard data shows we are doing things well. We have top credit ratings. We can boast one of the lowest tax rates among Michigan’s 83 counties. Our crime rates are low. We rank well in health behaviors and outcomes. Our population is growing. But we also want to hear from our people. That’s why we’re asking residents who receive a call to please contribute 15 minutes of their time. The answers help make Ottawa County a better place for all of us,” added Felgner.

Sample questions: 

  • Overall, do you think Ottawa County is headed in the right direction, or, do you think things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track?
  • What is the single most important issue facing your community that the county government must address?
  • How would you rate the job that Ottawa County does in managing county finances?
  • How would you rate the quality of the Ottawa County website?

For statistical purposes, the surveyors will also ask demographic questions such as year of birth, the number of children the home, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and household income.

Spokes Fighting Strokes on the Grand River Greenway, July 25, 1-3 pm

Rain date: 7/27
Location: Connor Bayou, 12945 N Cedar Dr, Grand Haven, MI 49417

Join us for a dose of inspiration and a trike ride! Dan Zimmerman will share how he’s changing lives across the nation with recumbent trikes. Followed by our speakers, local stroke survivors can test out a trike. We’ll wrap up the day with a social ride along the Idema Explorers Trail. This event is free; light refreshments will be served.

DOOR PRIZE – A generous individual has donated a TerraTrike to giveaway at the event!

View and share the flier here!

1 pm • Speaker & Trike Test – Dan Zimmerman, Spokes Fighting Strokes

Dan will assist stroke survivors and attendees with physical or balance limitations to experience riding a recumbent trike. Text Dan to pre-arrange a ride: (602) 558-0820

Dan Zimmerman suffers from Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telanglectasia, a disease in which the lungs fail to filter clots efficiently. At the age of 41, the disease caused a stroke that damaged the left side of his brain, paralyzing his right arm and leg. Doctors told him he would never walk or talk again. After intensive rehabilitation, Dan was barely walking within a year, but severe aphasia kept him from talking. He continued to receive outpatient therapy at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. Dan found freedom when he bought his first trike and four years later founded Spokes Fighting Strokes with a mission to reach every stroke survivor and show them that recovery is possible!

Click here to read the rest of John’s story about using trails to recover and why he supports the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign.

2 pm • Social Ride with Betsy Cech, Michigan Recumbent Trikes

Meet at 12945 N Cedar Dr, Grand Haven

Leaders from the Michigan Recumbent Trike group will be offering two rides on local bike paths:

  1. 8 miles (approx) out & back on the Idema Explorers Trail to Riverside Park
  2. 10 miles (approx) out & back on the Idema Explorers Trail and the Spoonville Trail to Nunica

If a short and sweet ride sound better to you, there are plenty of spots to turn around along the way.

Thank you to our event partners: Ottawa County Parks Foundation, Poplar Ridge Partners, Angletech, Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Recumbent Trikes, West Michigan Bike & Fitness

Help spread the word!
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Ottawa County CMH Awarded Federal Funds to Support Behavioral Health

Community Mental Heath of Ottawa County Awarded Federal Funds in Support of Behavioral Health

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded Community Mental Health of Ottawa County (CMH) a total of $3,805,542 over the next two years enabling CMH to become a Certified Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). CCHBHC’s provide a robust set of coordinated, integrated and comprehensive services to all persons with any mental illness or substance use diagnosis. 

The funding will increase access to evidence based mental health and substance use treatment services, including 24/7 crisis response services.  Other critical elements included but are not limited to: strong accountability in terms of financial and quality metric reporting; formal coordination with primary and other care settings to provide intensive care management and transitions; linkage to social services, criminal justice/law enforcement, and educational systems; and an emphasis on providing services to veterans and active-duty services members.

“We are very happy to receive this funding from SAMHSA to become a CCBHC. This funding will strengthen our mental health services and allow CMH to improve the health and wellbeing of more people in our community.” said Lynne Doyle, CMH Executive Director.

Free Hearing and Vision Screenings for Kindergartners This Summer

Schedule now before the back-to-school rush!

screening

Free hearing and vision screenings are now available at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. Children entering Kindergarten in Fall 2021 are eligible for appointments and will be prioritized in accordance with school entry requirements.

Screenings are by appointment only. Please call (616) 394-5266 to schedule your child’s free screening today. The department’s technicians meet the State of Michigan Hearing and Vision Technician Certification criteria and will provide a comprehensive screening with each appointment.

“An undiagnosed hearing and vision problem may interfere with a child’s development,” said Leslie Ver Duin, child health team supervisor with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “Early detection and treatment of hearing and vision problems can help children succeed in school.”

To uphold COVID-19 safety precautions, only one parent/guardian may accompany a child. Masks are required per the MDHHS guidance for healthcare settings. Learn more about the screenings at miOttawa.org/HearingVision.

The ability to hear and see–the ability to learn–is the key to a child’s success.

Michigan’s Public Health Code requires screening during pre-school (ages 3 to 5) and again prior to kindergarten entry. Once a child begins elementary school, free screenings continue on a regular basis.

10% of children screened for vision and 5% of children screened for hearing are referred to specialists

Messy Neighbors in Ottawa County!

Gypsy moth outbreaks are being observed across the State

Frass from gypsy moth caterpillars

Gypsy moths made their debut in Michigan in 1954 and got quite out of hand during the 1980s and 1990s before an effective biological control was deployed. But in the last couple of years, significant outbreaks have been observed once again, here in Ottawa County and across the State. But if you are blissfully unaware of what ‘frass’ is, then you probably don’t have these unwelcome guests camping out in your trees! During June and July, gypsy moth caterpillars are in a feeding frenzy before they spin their cocoons. And if they are munching all the leaves off of the oak, aspen, and other trees in your yard, well, we know what comes next – poop, or frass, as the scientists call it. And a lot of it.

Gypsy moth caterpillar

While they can be unpleasant to live with, gypsy moth caterpillars are not typically harmful to your trees in the long term. With regular watering, some trees that have been defoliated by these pests will actually re-flush and produce another set of leaves this year! Some landowners may choose to just ride it out, but if you want to take action to get rid of them and learn how you can prevent or reduce outbreaks next year, here are a couple of resources you can check out:

Visit Michigan State University Extension’s Gypsy Moth page
Contact your local forester, Ben Savoie – ben.savoie@macd.org | 269-908-4134

2020 County Population Estimates – Ottawa is Fastest Growing County in MI

The 2020 County population estimates were released by the Census Bureau on May 4. Some of the Ottawa County highlights are provided below. Please note that this data is not a 2020 Census release, but part of the Census Population and Housing Unit Estimates program. 2020 Census county population data will be released later this year.

Data release highlights
• Ottawa County is now the 7th most populated county in Michigan, with a 2020 population of 294,635. This is the first time since 2010 that Ottawa has ranked above 8th.
• Ottawa County was the fastest growing county in the State between 2010 and 2020 (11.7% growth).
• Ottawa County was the 2nd fastest growing county in the State between 2019 and 2020 (1.1% growth).
• 47% of Ottawa’s population growth between 2010 and 2020 was the result of a natural increase, meaning there were more births than deaths in the county.
• 53% of Ottawa’s population growth between 2010 and 2020 was the result of a positive net migration, meaning more people moved into the county than moved out of the county.

Additional information can be found on the Planning and Performance Improvement webpage, which includes data for the 10 largest and 10 fastest growing counties in Michigan as well as the above map.

Fourth Annual Ottawa County Art Trust Exhibition

Ottawa County and the Holland Area Arts Council invite local artists to enter their Ottawa County themed works in a juried exhibition located in the County’s Administration Building. This is the fourth annual exhibition to build the Ottawa County Art Trust. The Ottawa County Art Trust will build a permanent library of artwork created by resident artists.

Artist Christi Dreese will serve as juror and will select the works which will select from the exhibition and be purchased to become part of the permanent art collection of the Ottawa County Art Trust. Individuals and businesses can also purchase art from the exhibition to donate to the Art Trust in honor of others.

A selection of works in the Ottawa County Art Trust Collection on display.

Artists must be 18 years of age or older and reside or own property or work in Ottawa County. The complete prospectus including entry deadlines, fees and more is online at miOttawa.org/ArtTrust.

The exhibit will open to the public for viewing following a reception on June 15 from 4:30 to 5:30PM. (Subject to change and limitations based upon COVID-19 restrictions.) The exhibit will remain installed at the Ottawa County Fillmore Administration Building until August 20. The purchase awards will be announced at the reception.

Culture and creativity are important to Ottawa County leaders. As a government organization, the County has taken what may be considered a unique position for government, forging a creativity and innovation program. Establishing an Art Trust is a very tangible way to demonstrate the importance of culture and creativity. At the same time, the trust will preserve a legacy of art for generations of residents to come.

Historically, government has taken an active role in preserving and promoting the arts. Art preservations and trusts were at one time considered a civic responsibility. Experts know that art

stimulates business and tourism;
cultivates imagination and creativity among young minds, enhancing academic achievement;
fosters mental and emotional health, contributing to overall well-being; and
creates a sense of place and a desirable quality of life.

“We know that that the Ottawa County Art Trust alone will not achieve all these benefits of art, but we do believe that the Art Trust will contribute to the vision of Ottawa County being a welcoming place. A place where everyone can belong, ” said Shannon Felgner, Communications Manager.

Ottawa County leaders plan to hold the exhibition annually to grow the County’s fine art collection. As the collection grows, the works will be on display in various county locations.

Ottawa County Leaders Honor Deputies and Corrections Officers

In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as “National Peace Officers Memorial Day” and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as “National Police Week.” In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the week beginning May 6, 1984, as “National Correctional Officers Week.”

Since then, these two weeks have been allocated to honor the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, law enforcement officers actively protecting our community, and corrections officers who serve in and secure our facilities.  

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Roger Bergman, Board Chairman, poses with representative from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Zeeland Police Department, Holland Police Department, Michigan State Police and GVSU Department of Public Safety.

At the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners Meeting on May 11, the leaders honored West Michigan’s police officers, corrections and sheriff’s deputies. The board signed a resolution recognizing National Corrections Week, May 2-8, and National Police Week, May 9-15. Every single day, 24 hours a day, sheriff’s and corrections deputies and police officers, risk their lives to safeguard our communities. Their dedication, professionalism and unwavering assistance when called upon does not go unnoticed. 

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office also held private honor guard ceremonies and set a wreath in memoriam of those who have died in the line of duty in Ottawa County: 

Office William Glerum – Zeeland Police Department – End of Watch: 07/18/1933
Res. Deputy Arlyn Lee Gort – Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office – End of Watch: 08/22/1989
Officer Scott Anthony Flahive – Grand Haven Dept. of Public Safety – End of Watch: 12/13/1994
Officer Trevor Parker Slot – Walker Police Department – End of Watch: 10/13/2011

Ottawa County Parks & Recreation is Hiring

ocparks

Ottawa County Parks & Recreation is searching for candidates interested in working outside this summer!

The opportunities are perfect for students (18+) who are home on break, retirees who want to spend more time outside, or anyone interested in parks who would like to earn extra money during the summer months. 

“Ottawa County Parks has received far fewer applications than in past years and we are in urgent need of qualified candidates that have the availability to work the whole summer,” said Parks spokesperson, Jessica VanGinhoven. 

Opportunities exist at parks in Holland, Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake, West Olive, and Jenison (near Allendale and Hudsonville). Seasonal employees that return for the next season are guaranteed a pay raise every year for the first four years.Interested candidates should review open positions and apply online. 

Current Open Positions

  • Grounds Attendant (Seasonal, non-benefited) – $11.40 Hourly
  • Park Attendant (Seasonal, non-benefited) – $10.90 Hourly

miottawa.org/apply

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Road Closure: 48th Ave., Fillmore St. to Bauer Rd., Starts May 17

from the Ottawa County Road Commission

WHEN: Starting on Monday, May 17, 2021

WHERE: 48th Ave., between Fillmore St. and Bauer Rd.

WHY: Culvert Replacement

BACKGROUND: Starting on Monday, May 17, 2021, the Ottawa County Road Commission (OCRC) will begin a culvert replacement project on 48th Avenue between Fillmore Street and Bauer Road in Georgetown Township.

There are 3 culverts being replaced. The 1st location is about 1,000 feet south of Fillmore St. can be reached from the north to address 9441 and 9421 from the south. This closure will be from May 17 to May 21.

The 2nd location can be reached from the north to address 8701 and the Riverstone Apartments, and can be reached from either direction. This will happen May 24 to May 27.

The 3rd location can be reached from the north to address 8840 and from the south to 8701 and Riverstone Apartments. This will happen June 1 to June 4.

DETOUR: The detour route for all three replacements is Fillmore St. to 56th Ave. to Bauer Rd.

detour

Ottawa Conservation District Receives Federal Funding

Regional Conservation Partnership Program funds will jumpstart Farmland and Water Quality Conservation Initiative, which aims to address regional natural resource concerns

WEST OLIVE — In a win for West Michigan, the Ottawa Conservation District (OCD) has been awarded project funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for their Farmland and Water Quality Conservation Initiative.

This project aims to benefit the long-term economic, social, and environmental health of Ottawa County and the surrounding area by protecting surface and groundwater quality, improving aquatic and wildlife habitat, and preserving manageable farmland in the Macatawa, Lower Grand, and Pigeon River watersheds. Along with NRCS, the OCD will be partnering with Ottawa County’s Farmland Preservation Program, the Ottawa County Groundwater Sustainability Initiative, the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, Ottawa County Farm Bureau, neighboring conservation districts, and local townships.

This project will leverage nearly 7 million federal, state, and local dollars over the next 5 years to address the unique natural resource concerns in West Michigan, and simultaneously addresses an objective of the Groundwater Sustainability Initiative’s Proactive Strategy Index, an action plan to achieve water sustainability in Ottawa County.

Through RCPP, conservation partners such as OCD work in collaboration with NRCS to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners throughout the nation to implement systems that conserve water and soil resources, improve the health of wildlife habitats, and increase climate resilience. OCD and partners will offer value-added contributions to amplify the impact of RCPP funding. These projects offer impactful and measurable outcomes. Throughout its history, RCPP has leveraged partner contributions of more than $1 for every $1 invested by USDA, resulting in nearly $3 billion collectively invested in natural resource conservation on private lands.

“The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is public-private partnership working at its best,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “These new projects will harness the power of partnership to help bring about solutions to natural resource concerns across the country while supporting our efforts to combat the climate crisis.”

This is the first time OCD will be partnering with NRCS on an RCPP project. The project is expected to begin in the fall of 2021 and will involve numerous other partners throughout Ottawa, Kent, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Allegan counties. OCD is thankful and excited for this new opportunity to continue its mission of helping people conserve, maintain and improve natural resources and the environment for future generations.

About the Ottawa Conservation District
Ottawa Conservation District is a locally controlled resource management District created by concerned landowners and administered by a publicly elected board of directors. It was organized as a local unit of State government on May 9, 1938, under Michigan Law. The District provides local coordination for many State and Federal land and water management programs, cooperates with local government units to positively influence private land management decisions, and provides management assistance to landowners in Ottawa County. To learn more about the Ottawa Conservation District, visit ottawacd.org.

Ottawa County Partners with Merit Network to Launch Phase I of Digital Inclusion Strategy

Research and educational network will assist in data collection and analysis of broadband landscape

WEST OLIVE — It’s not surprising that high-speed internet has become a necessity. But in Ottawa County, broadband service remains inconsistent. Members of the public regularly report difficulties with connectivity, reliability, and affordability.

Ottawa County remains committed to tackling these persistent issues – and is partnering with Merit Network, a research and educational organization owned and run by Michigan’s public universities, to thoroughly understand the County’s broadband landscape. This vital first step is part of a larger, four-phase Comprehensive Digital Inclusion Strategy, a new initiative to ultimately establish universal access to affordable, reliable broadband across all areas of the County.

“Following a thorough interview process with multiple organizations that responded to a Request For Proposal issued by the County, it was clear Merit was the right choice to launch our Phase I effort,” said Paul Sachs, Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department director.

The County anticipates the extensive data collection process to commence as early as June 2021, with the analysis and reporting completed by the end of the year. With Merit’s collected data, the County can move on to the next three phases of its Digital Inclusion Strategy.

“Communities have been struggling with the ‘digital divide’ for decades, and while some progress has been made in closing the gap, inequities persist across the country. We are excited to partner with Ottawa County to take the next step in helping underserved (residents) achieve broadband internet success,” said Charlotte Bewersdorff, vice president of Marketing and Member Engagement for Merit Network.

To help cover the costs associated with Phase I, Ottawa County is being supported by a diverse group of partners from the local business, education, municipal, and nonprofit sectors.

“Our broadband strategy has to start with better data,” said Sachs. “The financial support from these community stakeholders has provided the boost we need to get started.”

phaseone

The Data Problem

Why are Ottawa County and its partners taking the lead? Because state and federal regulators, as well as national providers, are under the mistaken impression that reliable, high-speed broadband service is consistently available in nearly all corners of the County.

The source of the data problem is inaccurate maps. The Federal Communications Commission maintains maps that illustrate broadband coverage across the U.S. based on Census blocks. But Census blocks vary widely in size based on population density. For example, a Census block in the city of Holland can be dramatically smaller than a block in a less densely populated township.

No matter the square mileage, if one home in a Census block has access, FCC maps record the entire block as having access, skewing the data. Additionally, the FCC relies upon internet providers to self-report where they have coverage. If a provider completes just one hookup in a given community, it is deemed the community is fully covered by that provider. These inaccurate maps have delayed and in some cases disqualified Ottawa County from qualifying for grants to improve service.

‘A grass-roots effort’

Ottawa County is developing a true public/private partnership to achieve its broadband goals. Post-pandemic, communities can no longer wait for federal and state governments to act.

“Taking steps now to improve broadband access will ensure all Ottawa County families and businesses have the tools to compete now and in the future,” said Sachs.

In addition to Phase I financial partners, the County is collaborating with an array of area businesses and public organizations, such as:
OAISD, which has been involved from the project’s inception;
Urban Wireless Solutions and KLA Laboratories, which are aiding to strategize and develop the broadband system;
Representatives from the City of Holland Board of Public Works; Lakeshore Advantage; Spectrum Health; and community leaders and strategists

The County is also planning to share resources and methods with neighboring counties during this effort. Planning & Performance Improvement Director Sachs recently discussed these opportunities with the Allegan County Board of Commissioners.

“This Digital Inclusion Strategy is unique because it’s a grass-roots effort – we’re taking this on locally,” said Douglas Weber, president of Urban Wireless Solutions. “Ottawa County officials grew tired of simply talking about the problem and realized that it was time to take meaningful action. They have sought assistance from all corners of the community to develop a plan. Data collection is just the first step.”

New web page offers strategy insights

Concurrently with the kickoff of the Phase I data collection effort, Ottawa County has created an all-new web page that thoroughly breaks down the local broadband situation and the comprehensive Digital Inclusion Strategy.

Through a series of tabs, visitors can review past initiatives, walk through each phase of the strategy, and connect with resources. And, to increase transparency, phase updates will be posted periodically under the ‘Taking Action’ section of the Digital Inclusion Strategy tab. Explore the initiative today at miottawa.org/broadband.

Tulip Time COVID-19 Testing & Vaccination

Tulip Time Festival in Holland will have no-cost COVID-19 testing and vaccination available starting tomorrow

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the City of Holland and Tulip Time Festival, are offering no-cost COVID-19 testing and vaccination opportunities. Through the HHS Community-based COVID-19 Testing program, rapid testing will be offered at an outdoor walk-up site. The OCDPH will also provide COVID-19 vaccination opportunities to community members and visitors. More information about the events and requirements is listed below.

“Testing for COVID-19 is an important tool to identify where the virus is circulating in our community,” said Dr. Paul Heidel, medical director with OCDPH. “It is particularly crucial for those who’ve recently traveled.”

“Partnering with the City of Holland and Tulip Time Festival gives us a great opportunity to meet people where they are and offer vaccination,” said Toni Bulthuis, immunization supervisor with OCDPH. “We will be administering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to make it as convenient as possible for people to get vaccinated.”

“Tulip Time is thrilled to partner with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health to provide testing and vaccines to residents and guests,” said Gwen Auwerda, executive director with Tulip Time Festival. “This is the first large festival in the state in the last 15 months. We encourage people to take advantage of both of these services to stay safe so we can stay open.”

Click for more information about Tulip Time’s COVID-19 Update.

Click for more information about the MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order.

Click for more information about Ottawa County’s COVID-19 Updates.


COVID-19 Testing Site

The soccer field at 61 E 6th St, Holland, MI 49423

Saturday, May 1 – Saturday, May 8
Walk-up between 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Thursday, May 6
Walk-up between 4-8 p.m.

Rapid antigen testing available to anyone (parental consent required for minors). Samples are taken by nasal swab. Results within 15-30 min.

No appointment needed No doctor’s order needed No insurance needed
No Fee Please bring a form of ID No pets allowed Wear a face covering

Find other COVID-19 testing locations here.


COVID-19 Vaccination Site

The soccer field at 61 E 6th St, Holland, MI 49423

Saturday, May 1
Walk-up between 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Option to Pre-register

Monday, May 3
Walk-up between 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Option to Pre-register

Wednesday, May 5
Walk-up between 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Option to Pre-register

Thursday, May 6
Walk-up between 4-8 p.m.

Option to Pre-register

These dates and times are all for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.


Additional Walk-in Vaccination Opportunities

OCDPH Clinic at GVSU Holland Campus

515 S Waverly Rd, Holland, MI 49423

Tuesday, May 4
Walk-in between 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability and for more available times. 10 a.m.-12 p.m. or 1-5 p.m. This is the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone aged 16 years or older. Please only schedule this first-dose appointment if you’re able to receive your second dose on June 1. Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm. Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Holland Hospital – Urgent Care

3232 N Wellness Dr, Holland, MI 49424

Monday, May 3
Walk-in between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability. This is the first dose of the Moderna vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please only schedule this first-dose appointment if you’re able to receive your second dose on May 31 (to be scheduled after receiving your first dose). Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.

Tuesday, May 4
Walk-in between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability. This is the first dose of the Moderna vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please only schedule this first-dose appointment if you’re able to receive your second dose on June 1 (to be scheduled after receiving your first dose). Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.

Wednesday, May 5
Walk-in between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability. This is the first dose of the Moderna vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please only schedule this first-dose appointment if you’re able to receive your second dose on June 2 (to be scheduled after receiving your first dose). Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.

Thursday, May 6
Walk-in between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability. This is for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.

Friday, May 7
Walk-in between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Option to schedule an appointment to ensure vaccine availability. This is for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for anyone aged 18 years or older. Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID and wear clothing that allows vaccine administration in your upper arm.

Ottawa County Preliminary Unemployment Rate for March 2021

The preliminary unemployment rates for March 2021 were released recently by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Ottawa County’s unemployment rate has decreased from a high of 20.4% in April 2020 to 4.3% in March 2021. This is currently the third-lowest unemployment rate in Michigan, with rates ranging from 16.2% in Mackinac County to 3.2% in Livingston County.

unemploymentrate

Read more from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget

Medication Take Back Event at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital on April 24th

Remove the Risk from your Home – Participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The United States is currently experiencing an epidemic of prescription drug misuse and abuse. Opioid overdose deaths in Michigan have almost tripled in five years. To help turn the tide on this epidemic, Community Mental Health of Ottawa County and Spectrum Health are partnering with Michigan OPEN and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department to host a medication take-back event on Saturday, April 24th from 10am-2pm.

This will be a drive thru event to ensure the safety of everyone participating. Please bring any unused or expired medications including over-the-counter, prescription, liquids, inhalers, ointments and pet meds to be properly disposed of. We will also be taking back used needles for proper disposal.

Did you know?
Every 10 minutes a child visits the emergency room for medication poisoning
12.5 million people age 12 and older misused opioids in the last year
Three in five teens say prescription pain medication is easy to get from their parents’ medicine cabinet

Community opioid medication take-back events provide a safe process for disposing of unused medications and used needles while protecting our communities, children and environment.

Please, remove the risk from your home and bring your unused medications and used needles to Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital at: 8333 Felch Street, Zeeland, MI 49464 on Saturday, April 24th between 10am-2pm.

If you would like more information please contact Jessica Irvin at 616-494-4489 or jirvin@miottawa.org

Michigan 20th Circuit Court’s Online Parenting Time Complaint Resolution

Getting Tech Friendly: Ottawa County Friend of the Court Offers Online Parenting Time Complaint Resolution

The Ottawa County Friend of the Court has expanded its ground-breaking online dispute resolution platform to include parenting time complaints. Parents may now initiate and resolve parenting time complaints online from a smartphone, computer or tablet. The 20th Circuit Court in Ottawa County is the only court in the state of Michigan and in the nation to offer this option.

“Online dispute resolution of parenting time complaints can happen outside of court hours,” said Chief Judge Jon Van Allsburg, “and the parties do not have to appear at the same time, to solve transportation and scheduling issues. Technology provides access to the court to parents who cannot attend court in person, and we believe that is important.”

Jennell Challa, Ottawa County Friend of the Court, said “we encourage parents to prevent misunderstandings by putting their parenting time schedules in writing and by adjusting them as their circumstances change. If a parent misses scheduled time with their child, we seek to address the issue in a way that is convenient for both parents.”

Matt Schmid, Assistant Friend of the Court, notes that “this online process will work the same as it does in person. Any parent will get the chance to explain the problem or the circumstances. We can then create makeup parent time agreements or refer the parents to mediation via the platform, just as we would in person. Additional options are helpful during this difficult time.”

The platform works by enabling any parent with an existing court case to electronically contact their caseworker. That person can provide information, and the caseworker then invites the other parent to respond. The other parent has various options for how to respond, including proposing make-up parenting time. The caseworker can assist by offering ideas and suggestions. If the parents reach an agreement, the case worker will prepare the legal document for all parties to review and sign. The agreement is then submitted electronically to the judge for signing. When the agreed upon order is signed, any hearing on the dispute is canceled if all disputed matters have been resolved. The parties need not come to court to finalize the agreement and the entire process can be completed in a few days, whereas filing a motion and scheduling a hearing on the same dispute can take several weeks.

This process is similar to “in-person” parenting time complaint resolution, is free of charge and convenient for people who cannot come to court for any reason, including work, school, health, or quarantine.

The 20th Circuit Court has long been a national leader in improving outcomes for families via online access. In 2016, it was the first family court in the nation to launch an online child support compliance platform. In 2020, the court launched an online dispute resolution process, which has now been expanded to offer parenting time complaint initiation and resolution.

The platform is powered by Matterhorn by Court Innovations, an online dispute resolution provider based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Congratulations to the Michigan 20th Circuit Court for taking a proactive, public-centered approach to working with families. We are proud to provide the technology platform for their great work,” said Court Innovations CEO, MJ Cartwright.

Visit courtinnovations.com/MIC20 to see the platform.

Ottawa County Preliminary Unemployment Rate for February 2021

The preliminary unemployment rates for February 2021 were released recently by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Ottawa County’s unemployment rate has decreased from a high of 20.4% in April 2020 to 4.2% in February 2021. This is currently the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in Michigan, with rates ranging from 17.5% in Mackinac County to 3.1% in Livingston County.

unemployment

Read more from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget

Ottawa County Preliminary Unemployment Rate for January 2021

The preliminary unemployment rates for January 2021 were released recently by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Ottawa County’s unemployment rate has decreased from a high of 20.4% in April 2020 to 4.8% in January 2021. This is currently the third-lowest unemployment rate in Michigan, with rates ranging from 19.5% in Mackinac County to 3.8% in Livingston County.

Read more from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget

Ottawa County Adopts ‘Focus on Agriculture’ Plan

WEST OLIVE —Travel the scenic backroads of Ottawa County, you will notice one common denominator: farming. Whether it’s corn fields, fruit orchards, or livestock, you can easily see local agriculture at work.

With nearly 9,500 employed in ag-related businesses and $506 million worth of products sold annually (2017 Ag Census), Ottawa County’s agricultural sector is strong. During National Agriculture Week, we recognize the great economic, cultural, and nutritional impacts farming has on Ottawa County. We also recognize our farmers face challenges.

Just as local producers keep an eye on their operations to ensure a successful season, Ottawa County keeps a pulse on the local ag industry. It’s because of this careful observation that on March 23, 2021, which was National Agriculture Day, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners showed its support for the Focus on Agriculture Plan, a new four-part economic development action plan to address some of the issues our farms face.

Focus on Agriculture was developed as a result of the 2019 Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Survey, which asked County agricultural landowners and producers how best to protect and support farmland in Ottawa County, and, by extension, our local farming industry.

“Industry data, the farmland survey, and anecdotal reports all point to the same challenges — farmland is being lost to development, aging farmers are retiring and not being replaced, financial and property hurdles are preventing young farmers from entering the industry,” said Becky Huttenga, Ottawa County Economic Development Coordinator. “With Focus on Agriculture, we have identified ways that the County and industry partners can work together to help address these issues.”

The action plan targets these challenges through four focus areas:

Succession Planning – develop an incentive pilot program, private sector partnerships, and host events

Comprehensive Land Use Vision – improve planning and zoning efforts with improved data, mapping, and, when possible, encourage brownfield redevelopment over new construction

Economic Viability – addressing barriers to financial success by supporting and promoting the use of development rights agreements, farmer income diversification, tax incentives, high-speed internet expansion, and technology

Agricultural Easements – continued promotion of and investment in farmland protection through the Purchase of Development Rights Program as well as pursuing additional funding avenues and protection methods

Supporting this important initiative are a robust group of partners, including Lakeshore Advantage, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Homestead Orchards, LLC, the Ottawa County Farm Bureau, as well as local farmers and food processors.

“For years, Ottawa County and its partners have worked together on numerous different ag industry issues,” said Erin Moore, District Director for Michigan State University Extension (MSUE). “The Focus on Agriculture plan helps zero in on some key actions that can help support the local farm economy by slowing the loss of farmers, farms, and ultimately farmland.”

To learn more about Ottawa County’s efforts to support its agricultural industry and keep updated on Focus on Agriculture as it develops, visit miOttawa.org/farmland and www.mifarmlink.org, contact plan@miOttawa.org, or call 616-738-4852.

Locally raised meat, like these cattle at Maple Hill Beef, grew in popularity during the pandemic.

— Photo credit: Rich Lakeberg

About National Agriculture Day
Promoted by the Agriculture Council of America, National Agriculture Day recognizes and celebrates the immeasurable impact agriculture has on our everyday lives through awareness and education. For more information, visit agday.org.

Seasonal Weight Restrictions to be Lifted at 6 a.m. Wednesday, March 24

The Ottawa County Road Commission gives notice that at 6 a.m. Wednesday, March 24, 2021, spring weight restrictions will be in lifted on all county roads under their jurisdiction.

The Road Commission has implemented a 24-hour-a-day recorded answering system for the public to use to check the status of the seasonal weight restrictions. To access this message system please call (616) 842-0086 or 1-800-394-0290.

You can also visit our website, http://www.ottawacorc.com/, to find the latest information about seasonal weight restrictions.

For a statewide list of roads affected and the current weight limit, visit the County Road
Association of Michigan’s website at https://micountyroads.org/business/seasonal-weightrestrictions/.

Ottawa County Road Commission Wins the Michigan LTAP 2019 Great Ideas Challenge

The Ottawa County Road Commission (OCRC) won the Michigan LTAP 2019 Great Ideas Challenge, which seeks to promote and celebrate innovation in the state of Michigan by asking transportation agencies to submit unique innovations used by their agencies.

tailgateThe mechanics at the OCRC designed a box tailgate extension to solve a problem frequently faced by local road agencies when using dump trucks to transport materials.

Material can often get caught in the chains of the tailgate, making unloading difficult or even causing the tailgate to fall off. The OCRC had the idea to attach a solid side plate to the tailgate pins to extend the wall of the tailgate. Therefore, the box tailgate extension has a wall that prevents material from being caught in the chains and allows the material to slide out of the truck bed smoothly. The innovation also includes a tailgate lock that keeps everything rigidly in place.

According to recently-retired Equipment Supervisor Randy Nagelkirk, a mechanic can make the box in three to four hours.

“The task involves welding, drilling holes for the tailgate pin, and cutting off bolts,” he said.

The expected cost is $400. Nagelkirk said he encourages innovations such as this one at tje Road Commission because they “save time, save money for the road commission, and make life easier for the people doing the work.”

For winning the state-level Great Ideas Challenge, Nagelkirk received a monetary award for the OCRC to put toward attending employee training conferences and events. Additionally, the design was automatically submitted to the Federal Highway Administration’s LTAP Build a Better Mousetrap national competition. There, the OCRC will compete with transportation agencies from across the nation.

Community groups rally to help during COVID-19

March 14, 2020 – New website, careOttawaCounty.com, connects residents with volunteer needs during COVID-19 outbreak

As individuals, we are all taking steps to prevent spread of COVID-19: washing our hands, avoiding close contact with others, and staying home when we are sick. During this time, we also have an impulse to help our neighbors. To make helping easy, Ottawa County community groups have mobilized to create a website: www.careottawacounty.com. Those wishing to assist will be connected to a variety of opportunities to make an impact: volunteering, donating goods or making a financial gift. The hub was developed by a community coalition including the Greater Ottawa County United Way, The Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Community Spoke and The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

There are vulnerable populations in our community who will need ongoing care and support, and as COVID-19 spreads these individuals will face increased barriers in accessing vital services. Nonprofit agencies in Ottawa County have committed to keeping people fed, housed and healthy as best as they can. But these organizations face challenges as they balance their missions with the additional workload of managing the threat of COVID-19.

In addition to the increased need for services, COVID-19 is creating a gap in the volunteer workforce as older citizens, many of whom donate their time, are being advised to remain at home. New volunteers are needed to help fill that gap and avoid any interruptions in service provision.

Those who are not able to volunteer can also consider financial gifts, either directly to the nonprofit of their choice, or through community-wide funds housed at the Community Foundation for Holland/Zeeland, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation or Greater Ottawa County United Way. Financial gifts help local agencies offset the unexpected costs due to COVID-19, including an increased service demand, logistical challenges, and cancellation of fundraising events.

Ottawa County Road Commission Statement on State Road Bonding Plan

The Board of County Road Commissioners, County of Ottawa, has released the following statement regarding Gov. Whitmer’s bonding proposal for road improvements:

“While we appreciate the effort by the Governor and state leaders to find a funding solution to fix the state’s roads and bridges, we are disappointed that funding for county roads seems to be left out of the most-recent proposal.

“The Governor’s campaign promise was to ‘Fix the Damn Roads,’ and that should mean all roads within Michigan. The Governor’s proposal will address needs of the state trunkline system – which makes up just 8% of the statewide road network. However it fails to address the critical needs of our county and local roads and bridges.  The local road system is as important to Michigan tax payers as the state system, and as such, any proposal that doesn’t include funding for roads at the local level will lead to further deterioration and make it difficult for us and other county road agencies to bring our roads up to the same goals as MDOT.

“We’re also concerned that using bonds to maintain the existing system isn’t fiscally responsible, as the bond repayment schedules have historically exceeded the life of these improvements.  For example, payments are still be made on the road bonding that was taken out during Governor Engler and Granholm tenures.

“Our continued hope is that the Governor and Legislature can continue to work toward finding a funding solution that will benefit all roads and bridges in the state, not just the state trunkline, and that uses the Act 51 distribution, which is sustainable, Constitutionally-protected and fair.”

Protecting the Farm: Applications to Preserve Land Now Being Accepted

WEST OLIVE — In the past five years, Ottawa County has lost more than 14,000 acres of farmland. This contraction is no coincidence considering Ottawa is the fastest growing county in the state. Add in the fact that roughly 30% of the nearly 2,000 Ottawa County producers are of retirement age, and less than 10% are under 35, and it’s easy to see why valuable agriculture acreage is disappearing.

To combat this loss, Ottawa County has a powerful tool: the Purchase of Development Rights program. Interested parties can apply now through April 30 to preserve their eligible, agriculturally zoned property by selling its development rights. Creating easements through the sale of development rights guarantees the land is used for agricultural purposes or remains in a natural state in perpetuity. Landowners are compensated for lost development potential, yet still own the land and retain all other rights associated with it.

Across Ottawa County, support for the PDR program is growing. In 2019, Olive, Robinson and Zeeland townships approved resolutions of support, bringing the total number of participating townships to 10.

“For our agricultural industry to thrive, it’s vital we work together to protect our productive farmland from development,” said Cliff Meeuwsen, Ottawa County Agricultural Preservation Board chair and Zeeland Farm Services president. “This program is a valuable tool in the County’s long-term strategy for farmland preservation.”

Interested landowners can start the process for the PDR program by completing the newly simplified Pre-Application available at miOttawa.org/farmland.

Not sure if it’s right for your farm? Learn about PDR program basics and the full application process from farmland preservation specialists at either of these two open houses set for 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday, March 16, and 9 a.m-10 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex, 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive. RSVP by calling 616-738-4852 or plan@miOttawa.org.

To learn more about the program, complete a Pre-Application, and more, visit miOttawa.org/farmland. Interested parties are also welcome to contact our Farmland Preservation staff directly. Contact Julie Lamer at jlamer@miOttawa.org or call 616-738-4852.

Proactive Strategies Index Tackles Ottawa County’s Groundwater Crisis

WEST OLIVE — It started with phone calls. It was the mid-2000s, and something was amiss with the water wells in Allendale Township’s Highland Trails subdivision. Homeowners were complaining of low water pressure or even dry faucets. Then, area farmers chimed in – soybean leaves had been ‘burned’ because their irrigation water was salty. These reports were concerning, especially since Ottawa County is the fastest growing county in the state and one of the most agriculturally diverse. As groundwater complaints mounted, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners requested a water study be conducted to understand the long-term sustainability of the County’s aquifer system.

The County hired Michigan State University in 2012 to conduct a two-part groundwater study. Phase I, completed in 2013, validated the anecdotal reports: water levels in the deep bedrock aquifer system have been declining for 20 years, and in certain areas, sodium chloride (salt) levels are rising above recommended standards. The Phase II study, which assessed how the groundwater supply could be impacted in the future, was completed in March 2018. Phase II demonstrated parts of the aquifer will continue to decline, and sodium chloride levels will continue to increase if proactive steps are not deployed to manage withdrawal rates.

“Groundwater issues aren’t just an ‘out-west’ problem anymore” said Paul Sachs, Planning and Performance Improvement Department Director. “Based on seven years of scientific study, we’ve learned that drinking water in the deep bedrock aquifer below Ottawa County isn’t being replenished as quickly as it’s being removed.”  The geologic findings contained in the study are also an indication that drinking water from groundwater sources in Michigan as a whole may not be as abundant as previously thought.

Armed with the data, the Department has spearheaded a partnership with local scientists, policymakers and stakeholders to develop a plan for practical solutions to protect this vital resource. The County is pleased to announce the release of the Proactive Strategies Index, a guidebook highlighting steps oriented toward alleviating the water crisis.

“With a dedicated group of partners working in conjunction with our department’s land planners, we’ve created an Index that outlines the many ways we can tackle this groundwater issue,” added Sachs. “This guidebook goes a long way to not only address the crisis with mitigation strategies, but also to offer common-sense solutions residents and businesses can implement.”  One of the solutions identified in the Index that offers significant opportunity to improve the use of water resources is the conversion of turf-grass to more sustainable, native landscaping strategies.

Some of the other Index highlights include:

• Outreach campaign: In collaboration with the Department of Public Health and partners, educational materials and messaging are being developed for distribution across the County to the public and select stakeholder groups.
• Online resources: In 2018, the Ottawa County Groundwater website was launched as a place for visitors to access detailed information and data related to the County’s challenges.
• Youth education partnerships: Officials will work with local educators to introduce groundwater education into existing science classrooms, as well as other hands-on learning exercises with community partners.
• Stakeholder integration: Partnerships with homeowners, landscapers, realtors, developers, farmers and more will allow for conservation and awareness measures to be implemented.
• Model Zoning Guidelines and a Coordinated Future Land Use Plan: Thoughtful zoning practices will be developed with local units of government to reduce strain on our groundwater supply without stifling development.
• Groundwater Monitoring Network: The County is working to identify the best groundwater solutions by establishing a network of sensors to analyze long-term trends in the bedrock aquifer.

Index in hand, it is the County’s hope stakeholders, experts and the community can make water conservation a priority in West Michigan. For more information on Ottawa County’s groundwater issues, visit miottawa.org/groundwater.

Ottawa County Adds Vaping to Smoking Regulations

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, at the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners regular session, officials approved the Ottawa County Health and Human Services Committee’s proposed revisions to the County Operations Ordinances (Article 4, Section 400.1.1 Smoking Regulations) to include vaping regulations on or within county property AND proposed revisions to the Ottawa County Regulation Eliminating Smoking in Public and Private Worksites and Public Places to also regulate vaping. Any individuals found in violation of the ordinance shall be guilty of an infraction, leading to a warning and fines.

“Numerous studies have found that tobacco and marijuana smoke are major contributors to indoor air pollution, and that breathing secondhand smoke is a cause of disease in healthy nonsmokers,” said Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky, Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “Secondhand smoke is a toxic air contaminant and exposure to secondhand smoke has serious health effects. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Vaping is the act of using electronic smoking devices to deliver an inhaled dose of nicotine or other substances. Existing studies on electronic smoking device aerosol emissions and cartridge contents have found a number of substances known to cause cancer in humans, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, lead, nickel and chromium. Inconsistent labeling of specific components and nicotine levels in electronic smoking device products exacerbates this issue. Multiple studies have concluded that exposure after exhalation of aerosol from electronic smoking devices likely results in passive or secondhand and thirdhand exposure to product components.

Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Ottawa County Partner on First-ever Nonprofit Community Assessment

submitted by Shannon Virtue

With hundreds of nonprofits operating in the Ottawa County area, there’s no shortage of organizations seeking to give back. To help these organizations fulfill their mission, a group of local executive directors founded the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance (LNA) in 2006. Since then, LNA has strived to provide area nonprofits with the tools and knowledge needed to make an impact in the communities they serve.

To gain better insight into the needs of local nonprofits, LNA decided to conduct a first-ever Nonprofit Community Assessment. “We weren’t necessarily looking to measure the direct impact that nonprofits were having in the community, but rather how well the nonprofits themselves were functioning,” LNA Executive Director Patrick Cisler said. This in-depth survey measuring the health of area nonprofits would be unprecedented for the region. “We knew immediately that if we wanted the assessment to be conducted well and with integrity, we needed to partner with a third party,” Cisler said.

LNA turned to the Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department for assistance. Having worked with the Department’s experienced analysts on the Community Health Improvement Plan and Ottawa Food-related projects, LNA knew they would be up to the task. “This survey was a major undertaking,” said Ottawa County Planning & Performance Improvement Department Assistant Director Shannon Virtue. “We worked closely with LNA staff every step of the way.” County analysts reviewed the organization’s draft questions and provided feedback, ensuring the survey was well-written and easy to understand. Once the questionnaires were completed, the Department collected responses and carefully analyzed the data. Department staff then crafted three highly visual reports — a Summary Report, a Main Report, and a Supplemental Report. “The PPID kept the data collected private, analyzed the results for us, and ultimately produced a beautiful report,” Cisler said. LNA presented the Nonprofit Community Assessment results at Nonprofit Next 2019, the LNA’s annual meeting.

LNA is now employing the survey results as part of their strategic planning. “We have been able to share (the reports) widely in our community,” Cisler said. Individual nonprofits can utilize the results as a way to compare themselves to peer organizations and set benchmarks. The work is ongoing — with plans to conduct the survey every three years.

The County’s experienced analysts are ready to assist local government units, nonprofit agencies and other County departments with their data and presentation needs. “We bring information to life,” said the Department’s Shannon Virtue.

The LNA Nonprofit Community Assessment Summary Report can be viewed HERE. If you’re interested in learning more about the County’s services, please contact the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department at (616) 738-4852, plan@miottawa.org, or visit miOttawa.org/Planning. To learn more about LNA’s services, please contact LNA at (616) 594-7133 or visit lakeshorenonprofits.org.