Ottawa County

Don’t Lose Your Health Care Coverage

Do you have Medicaid coverage through the Healthy Michigan Plan?
Starting January 2020, there is a new work requirement. Many will have to take a moment to report 80 hours a month of work or other activities like job search to keep coverage. Some will be excused if they are unable to work due to health or other reasons.

Will this change affect you? Get the details at
1-800-642-3195 (TTY: 1-866-501-5656)

Ottawa County Libraries Awarded Grant for Mobile Broadband Hotspots for Patron Check-Out

Access to the internet is a necessity in today’s world. It opens doors to education, employment, and opportunity. With just the click of a mouse, the world is at our fingertips. For well over a decade, Ottawa County has experienced an impressive growth in broadband coverage resulting in the majority of people in the County being connected. Despite this widespread coverage, a technology gap still exists. Ottawa County survey data shows 22% of county households do not have a fixed broadband connection, and 35% say home internet access is unaffordable.

Together, area libraries and Ottawa County officials are bridging that information resources gap with a pilot program: the Mobile Hotspot Device Lending Initiative. Mobile hotspots are small, portable devices that provide wireless Internet access for any device that can connect to a wireless signal, such as a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or gaming device. Now, all nine libraries within Ottawa’s borders have been awarded a Library of Michigan Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, which is administered at the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, totaling $81,450 to go toward expanding the program. The need is clear: three of nine Ottawa County libraries (Herrick District Library, Howard Miller Library and Coopersville District Library) have offered mobile hotspots on loan free-of-charge to patrons for several years. These three libraries cite a continuous waiting list as long as 30 people for use of the hotspots.

“Herrick District Library launched their respective Mobile Hotspot Device Lending Initiative in 2016,” Herrick District Library Director Diane Kooiker said. “It’s been an overwhelming success. The numbers speak for themselves ­– I can’t stress enough how valuable this service is to our patrons.”

With the LSTA grant money and matching funds, Ottawa County will work with local libraries to fill the void in internet accessibility and affordability. Starting in October 2019, 100 T-Mobile hotspots were acquired and distributed, making the devices available for loan to the county’s more than 283,000 residents through all local libraries.

Ottawa Stop Child Abuse & Neglect

Council partners with local hotels to provide safe sleep resources

The Ottawa Stop Child Abuse and Neglect Council (SCAN) has partnered with local hotels to provide a safe sleep option for hotel guest traveling with an infant.

In Michigan, each year approximately 150 infants pass away due to unsafe sleep conditions. Safe Sleep is defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics as an infant sleeping alone, on their back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or pack and play with a tight fitting sheet. Breastfeeding and a pacifier without strings or attachments is recommended and parents/caregivers are encouraged not to smoke around their baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that parents/caregivers share the same bedroom but not the same sleeping surface until the baby turns one but at least for the first six months.

City Flats Hotel Holland and Fairfield Marriott Holland are partnering with the Ottawa SCAN council to provide a Safe Sleep option and educational materials for parents/caregivers requesting Safe Sleep for their infant. We can all play a role in keeping the infants in our community safe. This partnership is doing just that, and is another avenue to encourage parents to practice Safe Sleep at all times, even when traveling. If your hotel would like to participate please contact For families who are in need of a Safe Sleep option at home, please contact or call 844.233.2244.


The Ottawa Stop Child Abuse and Neglect Council is a community-based effort to prevent child abuse and neglect in Ottawa County through the Michigan Children’s Trust Fund. SCAN coordinates child abuse prevention efforts to ensure we work together as a community to protect children. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health and Arbor Circle partner with SCAN to raise awareness of child abuse and advocate for children who are at risk of abuse or neglect.

Ottawa’s 58th District Court Focuses on Access for All Citizens

pledgeoffairnessAt a recent day of professional development, 58th District Court staff were administered a “Pledge of Fairness” by Chief Judge Bradley S. Knoll. Under oath, all court staff pledged to each litigant, defendant, victim, witness, juror and person involved in a court proceeding to, “listen to you; respond to your questions about court procedure and treat you with respect.”

The events of the day were organized by the 58th District Court judges and leadership team who partnered with Robyn Afrik, Ottawa County Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director and Lucia Rios, Disability Advocate and Access Consultant. The curriculum was geared toward a recognition by all court staff that their pledges of fairness require extra and more strategic efforts to assure equal access to all court users, including those with disabilities.

Prior to the training, court staff inspected the three courthouses, attempting to view the experience through a diverse citizen’s perspective. Employees noted both facility and procedural characteristics, adequacy of signs, languages expressed, appropriate privacy, disability barriers and other attributes. These observations were discussed at the training and action plans were initiated to improve both functional and operational access to the 58th District Court.

Ms. Jeannette Johnson, a Rights Representative from the Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, also presented on understanding and serving the needs of the Deaf/deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing population.

Moving forward, District Court will continue this important work by collaborating with and working alongside Afrik in the Ottawa County Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office. The Court also plans on engaging Lucia’s expertise to remove identified barriers for people with disabilities in the courthouses as well as provide additional training on accessibility standards and sensitivity training under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We are very grateful for the contributions of Robyn and Lucia to the staff training on this very important issue and look forward to continuing to partner with them to help us recognize and accommodate the needs of all person having business with the Court,” said Chief Judge Knoll.

Ottawa County began its Cultural Intelligence initiative in 2013 with the formation of an internal committee tasked with educating employees, hosting an annual forum and getting more involved in community diversity initiatives. Five years later, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners established the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office on December 11, 2018. The DEI office will lead the development of an equity plan for not only the courts, but for all departments and offices of Ottawa County. A key initiative will be identifying implicit bias in internal policies, procedures, practices, and in external service delivery. This work is critical to continuously improve County services.

Ottawa County Offering Citizen Police Academy & Active Shooter Response Training

Apply Now for the Citizen Police Academy

Ottawa County now accepting applications for the 2020 Citizen Police Academy. The 9-session Citizen Police Academy offers 25 citizens an inside look at law enforcement. Sessions are from 6PM to 9PM on Thursdays from March 5 through May 7. (No class during spring break week.)

Potential candidates for the Citizen Police Academy must meet the following criteria:

Minimum age of 18
Live or work in Ottawa County
No Misdemeanor arrests within one year of application
No prior felony arrests

Applications will be processed on a first-come-first-serve basis. Pending a background check and eligibility, applicants will be notified of their acceptance into the academy near February 15.

For more information on the Citizen Police Academy and the selection process please contact Sergeant Ryan DeVries at (616) 738-4038


Topics covered in the academy include Road Patrol, Corrections, 911 Central Dispatch, Undercover Investigations, Narcotics, Marine Patrol, Dive Team, K9 Unit, E-Unit, Criminal Scientific Support Unit, Crime Scene Investigation, Firearms, Range, Simulator, Special Operations, Legal System, Accident Investigations and Community Policing. Most sessions will be held at the West Olive Fillmore Complex 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive, MI 49460. The location of the session may vary depending on the topic.actionpics

Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events

There is also space in the Sheriff Office’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events sessions. The Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course provides strategies, guidance, and a plan for surviving an active shooter event.

Participants must be at least 18 years of age; please bring picture ID such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification.

Kathy Winston Named Outstanding Supervisor of the Year

kwinstonThe 20th Circuit Court, Friend of the Court (FOC), which serves Ottawa County, has long been recognized as one of the highest performing in Michigan. At the recent annual State Child Support Conference, Assistant Friend of the Court Kathy Winston earned the honor of “Outstanding Supervisor of the Year,” given by the Michigan Family Support Council. This award is given to only one supervisor from the Michigan Child Support Program, which includes staff from the Michigan Office of Child Support, and from county Friend of the Court offices and Prosecuting Attorney offices statewide.

Winston has served the people of Ottawa County for 32 years, first as a Data Processing Specialist then Friend of the Court Investigator and now as Assistant Friend of the Court. Drawing from her professional experience and personal knowledge, Winston has crafted creative solutions to improve efficiencies in operations, suggested relevant technologies and maintained a budget that is mindful of the needs of the office and local taxpayers. The FOC in Ottawa County is characterized as “high performing” based on both State and Federal performance measures, due to a dedicated staff who work to help families mediate cases, collect court-ordered funds and settle disputes between parents involving minor children.

Since becoming Assistant Friend of the Court in 2012, Winston’s positive attitude has led the FOC to take on new challenges, including implementation of mandatory electronic filing and the Alternative Work Location program which allows staff to work remotely. She is committed to making the Child Support Program better for families and for employees working within the program. Says one of her staff, Winston is “approachable and willing to find the right solution even if she has to do the work herself. She has done almost every job in the office; she keeps up to date on trends in the field and moves our office forward. She also is exceptionally fair and does not take sides.”

Ottawa County Website Ranks 10th in the Nation

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) announced the winners of the 17th annual Digital Counties Survey on July 11, 2019. Ottawa County, Michigan’s technology practices and website,, were named 10th in the nation compared to counties with populations from 250,000 – 499,000. The award, given by CDG in partnership with NACo, identifies US counties with the best practices, including initiatives that streamline delivery of government services, encourage collaboration, and enhance cybersecurity.

“It is an honor to be recognized nationally for our technology. Offering a secure website, robust in services is simply good customer service. Citizens can access permits, records, and other needs 24-7 without leaving home. It is efficient for citizens and the County.” said Shannon Felgner, Ottawa County’s Communication Manager.

The 2018 citizen survey found support for Ottawa’s online presence as well:

• 76% of residents who had visited offered a positive assessment.
• 81% of citizens aged 18-49 said they would prefer doing business online versus visiting an office.

Citizens in Ottawa County are actively visiting for those online services. During the fiscal year 2018, a total of 79,781 transactions were completed online, translating to $2,540,274 worth of services. Online services are efficient for both customers and the County.

The County’s first e-service was property tax searches, initiated in October of 2005.

Along with services, residents can stay connected through technology. Ottawa County added email subscription services in 2015 to engage and inform residents. To date, more than 37,000 people are subscribed to receive county news.

Active Shooter. What Would You Do?

Though we hope you are never faced with the situation, would you know what to do in the case of an active shooter? Hide? Evacuate?

Doing the right things can increase your odds of getting through alive. The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office’s “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” class offers thought-provoking, eye-opening and engaging strategies, guidance, and plans for surviving an active shooter event. Since January of 2017, over 1300 Ottawa County residents have taken the course.

There is no cost for the classes, but registration is required and space it limited. Time and locations of the sessions vary. “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events”, or CRASE, classes are offered on a semiregular basis. For upcoming CRASE sessions, watch our webpage:

Outbreak of Lung Illness Associated with Using E-cigarette Products

The Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product use (devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges).

As of September 17, 2019, 530 cases have been reported to the CDC, with seven confirmed deaths. All reported cases have a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products. Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette product or substance that is linked to all cases. No consistent evidence of an infectious cause has been discovered. Therefore, the suspected cause is a chemical exposure.

The CDC has received complete sex and age data on 373 of 530 cases.

• Nearly three fourths (72%) of cases are male
• Two thirds (67%) of cases are 18 to 34 years old
• 16% of cases are under 18 years and 17% are 35 years or older

Passing on the Right…Isn’t Right

Drivers on M104 in the Spring Lake area may notice increased patrols from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. During the safety campaign, deputies will be watching for speeding, seat belt use and other traffic violations. There is one violation, however, that they will keep a closer eye on: passing on the right using the shoulder.

You may not even know that moving onto the shoulder and ‘passing on the right’ alongside a car waiting to make a left turn is both dangerous and illegal. In Michigan, it is only legal to pass on the right if your vehicle stays on the main traveled portion of the roadway. Shoulders, whether paved or gravel, are not the roadway. Passing on the shoulder is also dangerous. Cyclists and pedestrians use these shoulders regularly and find themselves in harms way if drivers pass on the shoulder. Passing on the shoulder predisposes accidents as well, since the next driver in line has less time to react to the vehicle that is waiting to turn left. To remind drivers of the law, MDOT will be installing signs on M104. Drivers cited for the infraction face a $125 fine and three points on their record.

Ottawa County & City of Holland Host Diversity Forum

Earlier this year, Ottawa County solidified its commitment to diversity with the establishment of a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) office. Now, Ottawa County is partnering with the City of Holland to host the 4th Annual Diversity Forum – Journeys to Equity in Public Service. The forum is on November 15, 2019, from 8 AM to 4 PM at the Holland Civic Center. Cost is $40 and registration is online at

The event will create an open space that allows resources and ideas to be shared through collaborative networking among public servants. Trailblazers already doing diversity work from across the state, and within government, will share why leaders of public service organizations and those operating the front lines need to care about DEI. Finally, presenters and panelists will share best practices and lessons learned while implementing equity action plans.

“The 4th Annual Ottawa County Diversity Forum will be the best yet featuring a new partnership with the City of Holland, a new venue at the Holland Civic Center and a new focus on creating a collaborative network among public sector organizations and employees throughout West Michigan,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator. “My hope is that the forum will serve as forums have served throughout history–as a place of learning, discussion, engagement and as a base for future action.”

The keynote speaker, Dr. Mira Krishnan, will address the challenges and opportunities of building an Ottawa County that includes gender and sexually diverse residents. Two panel discussions will also take place, including one comprised of elected officials from the region and another composed of DEI practitioners from government agencies throughout Michigan. Workshops of a variety of topics will include:

• The Racial Equity Toolkit: A Road Map for Government, Organizations and Communities
• Leading with Racial Equity: The Ups and Downs of One City’s Journey
• Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation
• City of Grand Rapids Equal Business Opportunity Program
• Inclusion in Hiring: Using an Evidence-Based Selection Process
• Building Health Equity

While the event is designed for those working in government, everyone is welcome to attend.

Ottawa County has been working strategically on DEI since 2012 when it created the Ottawa County Cultural Intelligence Committee and required employee diversity training as part of its “Four Cs” initiative. It held its first Diversity Forum in 2016. At that time, there were 72 participants. Last year, more than 130 attended.

Paul Klimas Hired as Ottawa County Innovation & Technology Director

Ottawa County is pleased to announce that Paul Klimas has been hired as Ottawa County’s Innovation & Technology Director.

Klimas has over 30 years of experience in the tech industry working in both the private and public sectors, most recently as the IT Director for the City of Grand Rapids.

“I love the lakeshore and am excited to be working in and for Ottawa County,” Klimas said.

Klimas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. He will begin has duties for the County on July 1. Paul started his IT career in programming, then moved to GIS, progect management and finally, IT Management. “IT is always evolving quickly. I love learning and being challenged,” said Klimas.

Klimas grew up in the Chicago area and has lived in both California and Ohio. In 2000, he took a position for the City of Grand Rapids. Klimas lives in West Michigan with his wife of 33 years. They have two children and six grandchildren.

“Paul’s extensive background in Innovation & Technology coupled with his leadership roles made him the best candidate for the job,” said John Shay, Deputy County Administrator.

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Join us in congratulating Deputy Wade Van Bragt from the Sheriff’s Office and Erin Rotman from Human Resources, who have been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipients for the second quarter of 2019. You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at

wade“Wade is a truly dedicated servant to the citizens of Ottawa County. I am grateful that Wade is out quietly and humbly patrolling our neighborhoods. Wade treats our citizens with genuine kindness and fairness and is a great example to his colleagues,” said Sergeant Jason Kik.


“When I think of a person who is a true representation of the Ottawa Way and the exemplary customer service that Human Resources strives to achieve, I think of Erin. Erin has in-depth knowledge and expertise in benefits and does everything possible to give the best experience to each of our employees.erin She is always kind and compassionate and goes above and beyond when representing Ottawa County employees. Human Resources is proud of Erin and her achievement in being recognized as a recipient of the County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award,” said Marcie Ver Beek, Human Resources Manager.

Implemented in 2012, the Customer Service initiative is one of the County’s Four C’s, along with Communication, Cultural Intelligence and Creativity. Customers can nominate an Ottawa County employee for an Outstanding Customer Service Award at

Access services and learn more about the County at, on Facebook, on Twitter or on Instagram.

Public Health Nurse Receives Award for Challenging TB Case in Ottawa County

Patty Feenstra received the 2019 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) TB Warrior Award for her exceptional work with a very complex and challenging case of drug resistant tuberculosis. Patty has been a nurse for 43 years and has been working as a TB nurse for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) eight of those years. This award was given at the 2019 MDHHS World TB Day Conference in Lansing, where she also presented Notes from the Field.

“Patty provides exceptional and compassionate care to Ottawa County residents with tuberculosis,” stated Tamara Drake, OCDPH communicable disease supervisor. “Patty always goes above and beyond to make sure they complete the necessary treatment.”

pfeenstra“Receiving the MDHHS TB Warrior Award at the 2019 MDHHS World TB Day Conference was a special honor for me and I appreciated the recognition for doing the work that I am passionate about,” said Patty. “I am proud to be part of a great team here at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health and at the MDHHS TB Control Program that provides awesome care for the TB patients of Ottawa County.”

Construction Continues on Idema Explorers Trail

Ottawa County Parks Foundation, Georgetown Township help fund new section of Idema Explorers Trail

Quick facts:
• Project is the result of government/non-profit partnership
• More work needs to be done to complete entire Grand River Greenway & Idema Explorers Trail
• This segment sets stage for future connections

Dozers, graders, and rollers are clearing the way for the next segment of the Idema Explorers Trail in Georgetown Township. Crews are constructing 1.17 miles of 10’-wide pathway along Cottonwood Drive and 10th Avenue near the Jenison business district.

This segment of trail was funded through the Ottawa County Parks Foundation’s Grand River Greenway Campaign in partnership Ottawa County Parks and Georgetown Township. The funding from these organizations leveraged a grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

The Cottonwood Drive segment is part of a multi-year effort to complete the core Grand River Greenway in Ottawa County. The effort includes purchasing up to 700-acres of additional land along the Grand River and constructing 27-miles of new trail (the Idema Explorers Trail) to connect the Greenway lands together over the next five years.

roadconstructionThe Idema Explorers Trail is being constructed in phases along the south side of the Grand River. Once completed, the non-motorized multi-use pathway will be 35 miles in length and will connect together eight county and state parks in Ottawa County. It also connects Millennium Park to Grand Haven for the first time, the two Grand Valley State University campuses together, and hundreds of miles of regional trails including a direct route to downtown Grand Rapids.

The Parks Foundation funding was made possible through its Grand River Greenway Campaign which is co-chaired by Peter Secchia, Monica Verplank, and Samantha Verplank. To complete the entire project, more funding is needed and donor engagement is ongoing. Enough funding has been raised to leverage future potential grants and construct 2/3 of the trail route. Still, to help ensure that the $41 million, multi-decade Greenway project is completed, $1.2 million in philanthropic funding is still needed.

“We believe the Idema Explorers Trail will be a vital recreational and pedestrian/bicycle transportation route for people in Ottawa County as well as for visitors all over West Michigan and beyond,” said Secchia. “It is great to see the next step being taken, but we need to continue to work together to support the Greenway so that we can re-connect our communities back to the river.”

“There is seven miles of riverfront in Georgetown Township, but there is no bikeable/walkable access to the river for most of our residents,” said Georgetown Township Supervisor Jim Wierenga. “The work being done on Cottonwood Drive moves us closer to making that possible.”

The new segment of Idema Explorers Trail along Cottonwood Drive will be important transportation route for the more densely populated neighborhoods of the Jenison area. It also sets the stage for important future connections/amenities including:

• Future connections to protected park areas (the Bend Area and as yet an unnamed 40-acre space north of Baldwin Street)
• Future direct connection to Kent Trails near the Ottawa/Kent County border once trail is constructed to the east.
• Future connection to the Grand River waterfront which will the first walkable/bikeable route to public land along the Grand River in Georgetown Township.

The Ottawa County Road Commission is administering the TAP grant and also designed the project. Brenner Excavating out of Hopkins Michigan is handling construction.

For more info on the 2019 construction visit:

Grand River Greenway Facts
• 14 county parks properties with over 2,700 acres of land
• Greenway also features a water trail (Grand River Heritage Water Trail) and a historic features tour for motorists (Historic River Road).
• Over 5,000 acres of land owned by other agencies between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids

To help complete the Greenway, the Parks Foundation launched the Grand River Greenway Campaign which is now only $1.2 million from completing its fund-raising goal. To learn more or donate, visit or call 616-215-6544.

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Join us in congratulating Judy Kettring, Community Health Worker, from the Department of Public Health and Frank Archer, Maintenance Worker, from the Facilities Maintainance Department, who have been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipients for the first quarter of 2019. You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at


Judy Kettering

“Judy truly cares about the well-being of the people she works with in the community and it shows in her efforts to assure she is providing the highest level of customer service. She is consistent, compassionate, responsive and reliable. Judy is a great representative of the Ottawa Way and demonstrates what customer service is all about.”  said Susan Keen, Nurse Supervisor.




Frank Archer

“In Frank’s twenty-five plus years with the County Facilities team, he continually demonstrates to all his natural talent for customer service.  He always greets our customers with a friendly hello and a smile. He gives his full attention to their issue and quickly follows up with a solution and a can-do attitude. We are all proud of Frank’s work, the example he sets for others and being recognized for this achievement,” said John Borgerding, Building and Grounds Supervisor.


Implemented in 2012, the Customer Service initiative is one of the County’s Four C’s, along with Communication, Cultural Intelligence and Creativity. Customers can nominate an Ottawa County employee for an Outstanding Customer Service Award at

Access services and learn more about the County at, on Facebook, on Twitter or on Instagram.

Ottawa County Population and Growth Rates

headerThe 2018 population estimates for townships, cities, and villages were released by the U.S. Census Bureau in May.  Some of the Ottawa County highlights are provided below:

• All of the townships, cities, and villages in Ottawa County continued to grow in population between 2010 and 2018
• Since 2010, the local units that experienced the largest population growth rates were Allendale (28.9% increase), Jamestown (22.5% increase), Blendon (16.1%), and Grand Haven Townships (15.6% increase)
• Grand Haven Township experienced the largest population growth rate between 2017 and 2018 (3.9% increase)

The County population estimates, which were released in April, showed Ottawa County as the fastest growing in the State and the 8th most populous.

The County Statistics page has been updated to reflect the latest population estimates.

Hometown Health Hero Award


State Representative Brad Slagh, Public Health Nurse Leanna Kermeen, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon, State Senator Roger Victory

Leanna Kermeen, public health nurse, Ottawa County Department of Public Health, received a 2019 Hometown Health Hero Award presented by the Michigan Public Health Week Partnership. This award recognizes people across the state working tirelessly to maintain and improve the health of their local communities. Kermeen received the award for her dedication to the migrant farm worker program in Ottawa County. When Kermeen clocks out of work, she does not go home or run errands, instead she visits migrant communities to provide sexual health services and education to break down barriers to STD testing and treatment.

“Your impactful work to improve the health of migrant workers outside of your normal working hours is exemplary and we wish you continued success,” stated James Koval, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in the award letter.

During the last two years, Kermeen has worked with public health agencies, private farm owners and growers and a multi-county migrant resource council to identify and treat communicable diseases within the camps; primarily in men 25 years of age and younger. Her work to slow or stop the spread of infections, such as chlamydia, has positively impacted migrant farm workers and the community. She also connects with local food pantries to seek donated food, ensuring the workers have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, toothbrushes and other necessities.

“Public health is vital to the health of our county, state and nation. An act of public health positively impacts a person but it has a ripple effect to the larger population,” exclaimed Kermeen. “It’s been my privilege, honor and passion to work in public health. Receiving a Hometown Health Hero Award is humbling and it gives validation for the work being done. This work matters, and it’s thrilling to drive public health forward with such a supportive network.”

Ottawa County Launches New Program to Battle Brownfields and Blight

West Olive, MI – Ottawa County is economically diverse, with strong tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.  But the industrial history upon which we built our thriving economy left a legacy of not only economic strength, but contaminated or underutilized properties in need of revitalization. Even today, there are tool and die shops, dry cleaning businesses, and gas stations, to name a few, that may be leave behind contamination once those operations cease. Contaminated, underutilized, or blighted properties like these all qualify as “brownfields”, and that means developers may be saddled with extra costs if they want to site their project on brownfield property.

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners recognizes that burden, and recently approved the creation of a new, unique, and locally driven financial tool to help defray those costs. Dubbed the Brownfield Incentive Program, or BIP, the fund was established to help incentivize the redevelopment of brownfield properties with local funding.  The fund, managed by the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (OCBRA), consists of certain revenues generated under the Brownfield Redevelopment Act, and from an Urban Cooperation Agreement with the Ottawa County Land Bank Authority, which provided funding for the BIP because of their shared goal of revitalizing vacant and underutilized land in Ottawa County.

Typically, using grants or loans from the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or utilizing tax increment financing under an approved Brownfield Plan, are methods by which developers offset the costs of brownfield redevelopment. However, grants are difficult to secure consistently, and loan funding is limited.  It is for this reason the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of the BIP. While Ottawa County is fortunate not to have the extensive issues with blight and contaminated properties that many large municipalities do, it is still best to take a proactive and aggressive approach to redeveloping brownfield properties.

Vaccinations Before Traveling Abroad

Are you planning international travel?
Diseases are only a plane ride away – Enjoy your trip by not getting sick!traveler

Plane tickets – check!
Hotel reservations – check!
Vaccinations . . . wait, what??

International travel takes on many forms; including tourism, business, study abroad, research, visiting friends and relatives, leading a group, ecotourism, adventure, medical tourism, mission work and responding to international disasters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, international airlines connect approximately 40,000 global cities and carry about 3 billion total passengers per year, and about 100 million passengers flew from the United States to overseas destinations during 2015.

With global travel, comes an increased risk of exposure to several diseases that are still common around the world; such as measles, yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis and many more. Be sure you’re protected before traveling by being vaccinated to help prevent sickness and health complications. Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned traveler, get the recommended vaccines four to six weeks before your departure date. Vaccinations and hand washing are your best defense against sicknesses!


The Ottawa County Department of Public Health’s Travel Clinic can help ensure your best chances for good health while traveling. During a travel clinic visit, a public health nurse will review your trip itinerary and your medical history. You will receive the most current information specific to your trip from professional travel authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. We will recommend and administer travel vaccines, based on your medical history and the anticipated risk of exposure during your travels.

We will also provide information about your destination for:

• common health hazards you may encounter on your trip
• insect and water-borne illnesses
• other non-vaccine-preventable infections
• recent infectious outbreaks in the area
• health care standards and health care availability
• safety and security alerts
• general advice on how to remain healthy while traveling

Schedule your travel clinic appointment four to six weeks before your departure date. The office visit fee is $80 and vaccines are additional. Call (616) 396-5266 to make a travel clinic appointment.

Travelers’ diarrhea (TD) is the most predictable travel-related illness. Approximately 30% to 70% of travelers will get TD, depending on the destination and season of travel. Traditionally, it was thought that TD could be prevented by following simple recommendations such as “boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it,” but studies have found that people who follow these rules may still become ill. Poor hygiene practice in local restaurants is likely the largest contributor to the risk for TD.


Be sure to download the CDC’s TravWell app before or after your travel clinic visit. In addition to the information and vaccines from a public health nurse, you can create a customizable healthy travel packing list, store your travel documents and keep a record of your medications and immunizations.

Ottawa County, Michigan, Lakeshore Regional Entity – Contract Termination

To:  CMHOC Consumers, Families, Providers, and Stakeholders
From:  Lynne Doyle, Executive Director

By now most of you have heard that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has notified the Lakeshore Regional Entity (LRE) of their intent to end the contract with them as of September 30, 2019.  MDHHS has stated it will replace the managed care operations with a private organization and remove the current public governance board.  The LRE and its affiliated Community Mental Health organizations and other stakeholders are in opposition of this plan for many reasons.  Michigan’s public mental health system was created to give those individuals with mental illness, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance use disorders not only the services and supports they need, but a voice in how these services and supports are managed and delivered.  Public governance of our system is important and you should be concerned that this protection is in jeopardy.  Further, there must be adequate financial resources for these Medicaid services.  Almost every region in Michigan is experiencing financial difficulty due to underfunding yet our requests for service continue to grow.  If you would like more information about this and how to help advocate on our behalf, please visit our website at or the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan’s website at

Community Mental Health of Ottawa County is committed to our responsibility to provide quality services and supports to our consumers as we work through the challenges mentioned above.  We will do everything in our power to minimize any direct impact to our customers and provider network.  We appreciate your ongoing support.

Delta Dental Foundation Funds Dental Mobile Unit to Serve Ottawa County Adults and Children

By fall 2020, a new dental mobile unit will be on the road providing dental care to Ottawa County residents. A $200,000 grant from the Delta Dental Foundation (DDF) to the Ottawa County Department of Public Health will fund a new mobile dental unit to replace the department’s 16-year-old vehicle which provides services through the Miles of Smiles (MOS) program.

“The MOS mobile dental service model has shown consistently over the years to be effective in filling a critical need in the community,” said Dr. Holli Seabury, DDF executive director. “We believe in the work they are doing to improve access to care, especially to vulnerable populations.”

The MOS program provides easy access to preventative and restorative dental care for low-income, Medicaid insured, and uninsured residents of Ottawa County. The current 40-foot mobile coach is outfitted with two dental chairs, digital X-ray machine, wheelchair lift, laboratory and a waiting area. The new mobile unit is needed to continue to provide dental services, especially as the unit ages and encounters more mechanical and structural issues.

”I am so thankful for the financial support from DDF that we have received over the years,” said Debra Bassett, Ottawa County Department of Public Health oral health team supervisor. “I am absolutely elated about this grant that will help us to purchase the new Miles of Smiles mobile unit, so we can continue to provide dental services for the Ottawa County residents!”

In March 2016, MOS implemented collaboration with Holland Free Health Clinic to provide onsite dental services. The mobile unit now visits the clinic up to three days a month to provide care to adult residents in addition to continuing to provide dental services to children at Ottawa County schools. An estimated 916 patients will be served in the first year of the coach.

To date, the DDF has invested a total of $250,000 in Ottawa County’s Miles of Smiles program. To determine eligibility for the MOS program, call (800) 467-5905) or visit


Click to take a video tour of the current mobile unit.

Ottawa County Ranks #2

Ottawa County ranks second in Michigan in Health Outcomes according to the 2019 County Health Rankings (CHR). The rankings show us where we live matters to our health and good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including jobs, housing, education, poverty and more. This is the tenth year of the County Health Rankings. Ottawa County has ranked either first or second in those 10 years. This year is the fourth time Ottawa has ranked second, and three of those four times Leelanau was the county with the number one ranking. The 2018 Health Rankings among states put Michigan at 34 of 50.

35 health measures make up the 2019 CHR:
• Of those, two are new or revised so there is no earlier baseline to compare to: Flu Vaccinations (new) and Mammography Screening (revised to include a larger age group of females).
• In 82% (27) of the remaining 33 measures of health, Ottawa improved or remained the same.
• Ottawa did as well or better than Michigan in 89% (31) of measures.
• Compared to top U.S. performers, Ottawa met or exceeded 25% of the benchmark measures.

“It is sobering that while Ottawa’s measures meet or exceed almost all those for Michigan, we fail to meet three fourths of the healthiest counties in the U.S.,” said Marcia Mansaray, senior epidemiologist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

Ottawa does NOT compare favorably to Michigan or top performing counties for:
Access to primary care (medical, dental and mental health providers). Though Ottawa has consistently under performed in these provider access measures by comparison, its people maintain a high level of overall health as reflected in top rankings for Length of Life (first) and Quality of Life (third). These two areas reflect the current health of a community. The Ottawa County community has taken deliberate action through its Community Health Improvement Plan to help residents navigate the often complicated health care system and to create solutions that fill gaps. These concerted efforts are reflected in the improved ratios for dental and mental health providers.
The other four areas measured by the CHR look at items that predict how healthy our community can be in the future. In those areas, our ranking ranges from a high of three to a low of 66. Air quality concerns, due to the geographic position we share with other counties along the lake shore in southwest Michigan, are captured by one of the measures in an area called Physical Environment where Ottawa has consistently ranked in the bottom quarter, though the measure is stable.

Other areas where Ottawa has a clear opportunity for improvement involve addressing social determinants of health such as:
• Violent crime
• Injury deaths
• Children living in single-parent households (has not increased since 2018, but has increased 29% since 2011)
• Excessive drinking has held at 21% of the adult population for the past four CHRs, up from 16% in 2010.

Ottawa strengths remain much as they have ever been:
• Longer life span
• Fewer teen births
• Few babies born preterm
• Fewer children in poverty and improving every year since 2013
• Very low unemployment

Items to celebrate:
• After four years of increases, adult obesity dropped two percentage points from 29% to 27%
• After nearly a decade of increases, sexually transmitted infections dropped slightly.
• Teen birth rate has either decreased or been stable every year in the past decade.

Why did Ottawa County drop from #1 to #2?
The rankings scores between the top few counties are very close together and nearly indistinguishable. The rankings do not suggest that they represent statistically significant differences from county to county. That is, the top ranked county in a state (#1) is not necessarily significantly healthier than the second ranked county (#2). What is evident is that the people of Leelanau are doing a great job at being a healthy county, which is intertwined with being economically vibrant and socially supportive. Ottawa County can surely learn from its partner to the north.

Ottawa County Population Growth Continues

If the latest population estimates are any indication, Ottawa County is indeed where you belong. The estimates were released by the US Census Bureau naming Ottawa County the fastest growing in the state between 2010 and 2018 with an 10.12% increase. Ottawa County was also the fasting growing last year in Michigan among the ten largest counties in the state. The county’s population is now an estimated 290,494–up 3,572 new residents since 2017 numbers were tabulated last March. Ottawa County remains the 8th most populated in Michigan.

“The fact that once again, Ottawa County leads Michigan population growth is yet another indicator of the quality of life we enjoy here:  bountiful natural resources and parks, strong employment base with innovative business, great K-12 and higher educational opportunities, low crime and access to health care make Ottawa County THE place to be,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator.


Tunnel Park – Ottawa County. Photo Credit: Mike Lozon

Other Ottawa County highlights:
Ottawa County was the second fastest growing county in the State between 2017 and 2018, behind Kalkaska County (1.2% growth for Ottawa and 1.3% growth for Kalkaska)
48% of Ottawa’s population growth between 2010 and 2018 was the result of a natural increase, meaning there were more births than deaths in the county (natural increase of 12,826 people)
52% of Ottawa’s population growth between 2010 and 2018 was the result of a positive net migration, meaning more people moved into the county than moved out of the county (net migration of 14,031 people)

Kent and Allegan Counties have also grown at considerable rates since 2010 at 8.49% and 5.31% respectively.

For more details, visit or the US Census Bureau.

School & Emergency Leaders Collaborate to Enhance School Safety

oassnsummitEach day, over 55,000 children are sent to school buildings across Ottawa and Allegan Counties to learn. Keeping all of these children safe at those school buildings is equally as important as ensuring their academic success.

On March 14, the Ottawa Area Secure Schools Network (OASSN), a combined effort between schools, law enforcement, and emergency responders within the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District (OAISD) to enhance school safety across the region, held its Spring Summit at the Ottawa County Fillmore Administration Building in West Olive. Over 100 representatives from public, private, and charter schools, law enforcement agencies and fire departments attended the event that strengthened regional school safety collaboration. This is the fourth OASSN summit.

At any given moment, school personnel may need to respond to an array of emergency incidents that extend beyond active shooters to include natural disasters, severe storms, and other violent incidents. These events may occur in classrooms, stadiums, school buses, auditoriums and other venues. Many incidents require the coordinated effort of the schools, local, state, and federal agencies partnering together to successfully respond.

The 3 1/2 hour Spring 2019 Summit focused on the development and implementation of an Incident Command System, a structure of response used day-to-day by law enforcement and emergency responders. Incident Command Structure integrates with emergency plans of schools and ensures clear communication and control during an incident. School personnel worked side-by-side with area first responders in brief tabletop exercises and simulations. The training highlighted how the schools can further use the command structure and plans to prevent emergency incidents altogether when expecting large crowds.

The Summit also reviewed protocol for the initial responders. Initial responders are those personnel such as teachers, bus drivers, coaches or other staff leading the students before the emergency responders, such as police officers, arrive.

“The Summit highlighted  two perspectives we must keep in mind as we deal with any emergency event. On the one hand, we need each individual – especially those like teachers who have a duty of care for their students – to be what we call an ‘initial responder’ who are equipped and ready to act in a split second to any situation. On the other hand, schools, first responders, and others must learn how to act as a ‘coordinated system’ to manage an event or crisis through response and recovery activities. The Summit introduced the participants to both the bottom-up and top-down protocols and practices to be successful from both perspectives, ” said Michael Rohwer, Assistant Superintendent of Security Operations for the OAISD.

“All the players in the room have great working relationships and this day builds upon that,” said Steve Kempker, Ottawa County Sheriff. “Bringing the region together to learn more about school safety and security with one another and from one another makes sense. In the unfortunate instance of a school emergency, the Summit gives everyone the resources and tools to respond and work together more effectively.”

Goals of OASSN are to coordinate and share training across all agencies; share practices and plans across the region and between agencies; and develop common safety procedures, protocol and language.

The Ottawa Area Secure Schools Network is a regional collaboration between public, private, and charter schools, law enforcement agencies, and fire departments within Ottawa Area Intermediate School District to work proactively toward maintaining and improving school safety. Through regional collaboration and shared practices, agencies can pool resources to stay on the forefront of school safety for all K-12 schools in the region.

Ottawa County Recognized as ‘Champion of Diversity’ by West Coast Chamber


Ottawa County Commissioners and key staff receive the Champion of Diversity Award for Ottawa County. Photo Credit: Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce

The Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce held its Celebrating Diversity Luncheon on Wednesday, April 17, and recognized Ottawa County as the Corporate Champion of Diversity.

Under the leadership of Administrator Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County embarked on a Four Cs organizational improvement strategy, which focuses on customer service, creativity, communication and cultural intelligence. As part of the cultural intelligence strategy, Ottawa County has implemented programs to train over 650 employees on diversity and inclusion within the sheriff’s office, the courts, the health departments, and other government services. Ottawa County’s Cultural Intelligence Committee has built relationships with many community organizations including the Migrant Resource Council.

Ottawa County recently established the Diversity and Inclusion Office, which will be responsible for developing templates to uncover and eliminate implicit bias, develop plans to promote diversity, and be an internal consultant on diversity, equity and inclusion topics.

Measles – It’s Not Just a Little Rash!

measlesMeasles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Also, measles virus can live for up to two hours in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people exposed to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

Measles symptoms typically include:
High fever (may spike to more than 104° F)
Runny nose
Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
Tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of the mouth
Rash (red, raised, blotchy; usually starts on ears and/or face; spreads to trunk, arms and legs)

Measles can be serious:
Measles can be serious in all age groups. But, children younger than five years of age, pregnant women and people with immune system-suppressing conditions/medication are at a higher risk of getting measles and are more likely to suffer from measles complications.
Measles may cause a pregnant woman to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.
Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
About 1 out of 4 people who get measles will be hospitalized.
1 out of every 1,000 people with measles will develop brain swelling due to infection (encephalitis), which may lead to brain damage.
1 or 2 out of 1,000 people with measles will die, even with the best care.

Learn more about complications.



English  |  Spanish

Michigan is Experiencing a Measles Outbreak

mdhhslogoMeasles cases reach 34 in Michigan, highest number since 1991. As of April 2, 2019, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed 34 total measles cases statewide since March 13, 2019. Oakland County has 33 cases and one case was a Wayne County resident. Infected individuals range in age from 8 months to 63. Exposure Locations. Stay up-to-date on the situation at

Stomach Bug Circulating in the Community

Increase in stomach bug

March 14, 2019 – Norovirus-like illness (stomach bug) is circulating in the community and increasing. It spreads very easily and quickly person to person and by touching surfaces contaminated with vomit or stool. Common norovirus outbreak settings are in enclosed places like nursing homes, daycare centers, schools and cruise ships. It is also a major cause of outbreaks in restaurants and catered-meal settings if contaminated food is served or people handling food are ill. Anyone can get norovirus and can have it more than once.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a person will get norovirus about five times during their lifetime. Norovirus outbreaks occur throughout the year, but more than eighty percent of reported outbreaks occur from November to April.


Click to watch the video.

How You Get Norovirus
• Having direct physical contact with a person who is infected, such as caring for or shaking hands with a sick person and then touching your hands to your mouth.
• Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus.
• Touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your hands in your mouth.
• People with norovirus illness are most contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill and for the first few days after they recover. Some people may be contagious for even longer.


“We are seeing increases in emergency department visits for stomach virus-like complaints. Schools, childcare settings and physician offices are also reporting more stomach illness in the past few weeks. Outbreaks are occurring in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. To reduce the risk of illness in our community, people should take preventive measures to stay healthy,” said Marcia Mansaray, senior epidemiologist.


Protect Yourself and Others from Norovirus
Wash hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers – and always before eating or preparing food. Hand sanitizers are generally not effective for norovirus.
Handle and prepare food safely. People with norovirus illness should not prepare food for others while they have symptoms and for at least two days after they recover from their illness.
Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces (such as toilets, counters and doorknobs). Always clean up the entire area immediately after someone with norovirus vomits or has diarrhea. Put on disposable gloves and disinfect contaminated surfaces using a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or with a solution of five tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water.
Wash laundry thoroughly. Immediately remove and wash clothing or linens that may be contaminated with vomit or stool. Handle soiled items carefully – try not to shake them – to avoid spreading the virus. If available, wear disposable gloves while handling soiled clothing or linens and wash your hands after handling.
Stay home if sick for at least 24 hours after symptoms end to avoid spreading the illness to others.

For more information, visit

Van Allsburg Reappointed to Business Court

vanallsburgThe Michigan Supreme Court has reappointed Ottawa County’s 20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Jon Van Allsburg to the Business Court for a six-year term. The Business Court is a specialized docket of the circuit court, created by the legislature in 2012 to promote timely, effective, and predictable resolution of complex business cases. The court began operations on July 1, 2013, utilizing electronic filing, phone and video conferencing, and early intervention to promote rapid resolution of these cases. Court opinions are posted to an indexed website for public access.

“We anticipate the business court will promote the use of technology and early intervention among those litigants who are most able to make use of it,” said Judge Van Allsburg. “We will be evaluating the effectiveness of these tools and procedures in the hope that we can apply them to all cases, and ultimately reduce the time and expense involved in resolving 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 will continue to be assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court, and he is also assigned to hear appeals from lower courts, municipalities, and state agencies.

Free Parenting Conference on May 16

parentingJoin us for the 37th Annual Challenge of Children Conference!

This year’s conference focuses on overcoming challenges associated with trauma, ADHD, Autism, pornography, anxiety and more! The keynote speaker, Dr. Stephanie Grant PhD, LPC, IMH-E®, is a proud biological, adoptive and foster mother of three (+) and Director of the REACH Parent-Child Program & Trauma Informed Communities at Developmental Enhancement Behavioral Health. Dr. Grant loves her work. It is not just what she does, it is a part of who she is. Whether it’s working with kids and their families, teaching college students, or providing training to adults, she looks forward to it. Her clinical work has been with children and their families. Her focus areas are on infant mental health and children who have experienced trauma, particularly trauma associated with foster care and adoption.

In the keynote speaker address, Dr. Grant will offer an overview of how childhood stress and trauma can change a child’s brain and body. She will examine how such changes result in differences in how the child reacts to stress, in how they respond to their environment, and in what they may need from their environment to be successful. She will also highlight why traditional care-giving strategies may be ineffective for such children.

Register here  |  Available workshops
Flyer  |  Poster

girlThe Challenge of Children Conference is a free annual conference for parents, professionals, and caregivers. Raising and caring for children is a demanding job. In 1981, a dedicated group of health and human service professionals recognized this challenge. They subsequently identified the need to offer parent education, support and a network where parents and caregivers could talk with one another about family life management. Today, the coalition extends into Allegan, Ottawa and Kent Counties, and the conference attracts more than 500 attendees every year.

Delaney Mullennix

Hot Dog Names of 2018

Bella fetches a three-peat

It’s the top ten list you’ve been waiting fur all year:  the top dog names of 2018 based upon the licenses issued by the Ottawa County Treasurer’s Office. The most common dog names for licenses issued in Ottawa County were:


The top five dog breeds licensed in 2018 were 1-Labrador Retriever, 2-Golden Retriever, 3-German Shepherd, 4-Shih Tzu and 5-Chihuahua. The top five breeds licensed in 2017 were 1-Labrador Retriever, 2-Golden Retriever, 3-Chihuahua, 4-German Shepherd and 5-Shih Tzu.

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. 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 More information about licensing dogs in Ottawa County is available on the or by calling 616-994-4501.

Ottawa County Among First to Partner with Facebook Local Alerts

Facebook selected just 25 pages to be included in the local alerts trial. Ottawa County was one of them.

Since August of 2018, Ottawa County his been beta testing a new feature on Facebook: Local Alerts. Local alerts enable Ottawa County to provide the community with time-sensitive, essential information. With the extreme weather over the past month, the tool has proven itself particularly helpful.

Local Alerts can be used at the County’s discretion, and so far, they have been employed for beach hazards, road conditions, severe weather and building closures. Most recently, a Facebook Local Alert was sent during a Monday morning power outage impacting services at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex.

Ottawa County Department of Public Health Annual Report

miOttawa Department of Public Health
“Our Vision – Healthy People”
February 26, 2019  |  Annual Report

Stories to Share Public Health

Annual reports showcase the impact of local public health. We gathered photos, conducted interviews, wrote articles and so much more to create a magazine-style annual report. We compiled stories that link public health issues to people in our community to give you an insight into what we do.

For the latest report, visit
or previous reports at


Click cover to view full report.

Featured Stories

Quilters from the Grand Haven Lighthouse Quilt Guild donate beautiful, lovingly made pieces of art to moms and babies.


Medical Examiners Program works with Gif t of Life to help turn tragedies into hope for other people and families.

New to the study: Experts identify eight adverse childhood
experiences that affect a person’s health and well-being.

Local solutions to the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Active Shooter. What Would You Do?

Though we hope you are never faced with the situation, would you know what to do in the case of an active shooter? Hide? Evacuate?

Doing the right things can increase your odds of getting through alive. Nearly 1,000 residents have attended a “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” class held by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. This thought-provoking and engaging class provides strategies, guidance, and a plan for surviving an active shooter event.

Sessions are available on:

April 12  | Register | Share Facebook Event

May 8 | Register | Share Facebook Event

June 15 | Register | Share Facebook Event 

There is no cost for the class, but registration is required. Time of the sessions vary. See the registration page for details. All classes are held at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Administration Building, 12220 Fillmore, West Olive.

Ottawa County Searching for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director

The search is on for Ottawa County’s first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Director.  The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners established the office on December 11, 2018, and approved the staffing plan on February 26, 2019.

The County began its Cultural Intelligence initiative in 2013 with the formation of an internal committee tasked with educating employees, hosting an annual forum and getting more involved in community diversity initiatives.

After five years, Ottawa County leaders knew it was time to do more.

“Some of our largest employers in West Michigan expressed to us that attracting global talent is critical to their success. While they can get them here, those who are different from the cultural norm are leaving after a short time on the job,” said Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County Administrator.

The DEI office will lead the development of an equity plan for the entire range of human differences. A key initiative will be identifying implicit bias in internal policies, procedures, practices, and in external service delivery. In addition, the County intends to extend assistance to local units of government that desire to tackle similar objectives.

Funding for the office is a combination of public, private and non-profit dollars. The cost to Ottawa County for the first five years is approximately $630,000.

More information on this position and the skills needed is available in the Recruitment Profile.  To apply, visit  The County is accepting applications until March 29, 2019.

Connecting the Idema Explorers Trail to Kent County

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission and the Ottawa County Parks Foundation announced two key property transactions for the Grand River Greenway Initiative.

These properties are crucial to connect the Idema Explorers Trail to Kent County.

“More work still needs to be done, but we are two steps closer to achieving one of the major goals of the Grand River Greenway Initiative, which is to connect existing Kent Trails in Grandville to the future Idema Explorers Trail,” said Parks Director John Scholtz. “With this connection, users would be able to bike and hike from Jenison to Kent Trails, Millennium Park, and downtown Grand Rapids.”

The property transactions include:

• A purchase agreement to acquire 16.5 acres of land on the Grand River with 651’ of riverfront in Georgetown Township for $100,000; the acquisition is expected to be complete by the end of January.
• Acquisition of a 1,000’-long easement that will connect a parks property on Cottonwood Drive to the riverfront for $10,000.

These purchases would not be possible without assistance from the Ottawa County Parks Foundation, which is providing all the funding for the purchases through the Grand River Greenway Campaign. The Greenway Campaign is co-chaired by Peter Secchia, Monica Verplank, and Samantha Verplank.

“This is not only a win for the development of the Idema Explorers Trail, but also for land preservation,  which is a primary focus of the Parks Foundation,” said Foundation President Bobbi Jones Sabine. “This will protect ecologically important and scenic floodplains and wetlands while also possibly helping to create a future park right in the heart of the Jenison business district.”

East of the Kent County border, there are nearly six miles of publicly owned riverfront on the south side of the Grand River. A multi-use pathway extends through this public land and then connects to Millennium Park on the north side of the River, where separated and on-road pathways lead to downtown Grand Rapids.

At the border with Ottawa County, the City of Grandville owns land where Rush and Buck Creeks flow into the Grand River at the site of the Grandville Clean Water Plant. Ottawa County Parks, in collaboration with Georgetown Township, has worked for years to assemble properties and easements west of the plant (near the Cottonwood Drive/Baldwin Street intersection) with the goal of linking to the public land in Kent County.

Tim Parker Chairs ACRE AgTech, Plans Accelerator Program for 2019

Ottawa County, MI – Over the past decade, accelerators have become an essential part of the new business startup and scale up journey. Michigan is home to several of these accelerators, and later in 2019, ACRE AgTech will become the only Michigan business accelerator dedicated to serving the State’s second largest industry – agriculture.  ACRE AgTech has two key ingredients for success in this new endeavor.  First, Tim Parker, president of the Grand Angels venture group, was elected ACRE AgTech’s Board Chair this month. Parker has tremendous expertise in venture deals and evaluating startups. Under his leadership, ACRE will be well positioned to select the most talented innovators to participate in the new accelerator program. Second, becoming a launch member of GAN will help pave the way for the ACRE AgTech Accelerator to bring innovative solutions from across the country to Michigan’s agriculture industry. GAN is a highly curated community of independent accelerators, partners, and investors. They create opportunities around the world for startups to access the human and financial capital they need to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are.

Over the last ten years, more than 9,400 startups have gone through a GAN accelerator, and GAN data shows that 85% of those startups are still in business today. Among GAN corporate partners are Amazon, Cisco, American Airlines, IBM, Land Rover, Microsoft, Michelin, Mastercard, Universal Music Group, and others. Parker is confident that being a GAN accelerator will be very beneficial. “With this kind of networking and turnkey access to best practices observed globally by accelerators, we will be able to give our innovators a very competitive edge,” Parker commented.

Being a part of the GAN community offers great opportunities for its startups. Being GAN means having access to nearly 30 corporate partners that are excited to engage with startups, and engagement with investors interested in hearing ideas from authentic startup founders – and this is just what the agriculture industry in Michigan needs. The goal of the ACRE AgTech Accelerator program is to accurately and efficiently scout for the right agtechnology to meet today’s challenges in agriculture, then help the innovators behind the technologies launch their businesses.

ACRE AgTech has been providing connections and resources to agtech entrepreneurs across Michigan since December 2014. ACRE, a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization, receives support from GreenStone Farm Credit Services, Watson IP, BizStream, Rehmann, Next Creative, Ottawa County, and the State of Michigan. For more information about ACRE AgTech and the launch of the ACRE AgTech Accelerator, please visit the website at, follow on twitter @ACREAgTech, or contact them at or 616.994.4745.

Ottawa County Courts Receive High Marks from Public

Over the Past Six Years, People are Very Satisfied with  the 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts

For several years, the 20th Circuit and Ottawa County Probate Courts have received high marks from the public regarding their experiences with the court. Using a survey that was administered in courts statewide, the local Circuit and Probate Courts asked court users questions about whether Circuit and Probate Courts were accessible, timely, and fair, and if they were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff.

“Our court serves the people, so their views are critically important in helping us make decisions on how to improve court operations,” said Chief Circuit Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg.  Chief Probate Judge Mark A. Feyen also noted, “I am very proud of the hard work put in by our Probate Court employees, and we are committed to being even more efficient and focused on improving service to the public.”

Highlights from the 2018 survey include:

92% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by court staff.
88% of court users said the way the judge or attorney referee handled their case was fair.
84% of court users were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time.

“We use the data from this survey to make management decisions that help better serve the public,” said Court Administrator Kevin J. Bowling. “Our goal is for every person who comes through the courthouse doors to be satisfied and treated fairly.”

Ottawa County Tackles Challenging Groundwater Issues with Proactive Planning

One of the last places you would expect to encounter a challenge with ensuring a sustainable supply of fresh groundwater is Ottawa County. Situated along 24 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, with the Grand River traversing its landscape and Lake Macatawa and Spring Lake within its borders, Ottawa County is a popular destination for recreation, business, and living. Access to water is perceivably abundant. However, the water that is located underground and out of view, which is used by thousands of residents as their primary source of fresh drinking water as well as by farmers to irrigate their crops, is at risk.

Originally alerted to groundwater concerns nearly a decade ago, Ottawa County hired Michigan State University (MSU) in 2011 to conduct a comprehensive study of the quality and sustainability of the County’s groundwater system. MSU’s scientific findings released in Spring 2018 confirmed the anecdotal evidence—water levels in the deep bedrock aquifer are declining, and chloride concentrations in the water are increasing. Moreover, the findings of this study support what we’ve known all along—water conservation is critical, even in our Great Lakes State.

MSU’s groundwater study points to unique geological features located underneath several communities in the central areas of Ottawa County as a contributing factor to the groundwater challenge. These areas are seeing declining groundwater levels due to thick layers of clay deposits that prevent water from re-entering the bedrock aquifer locally. As groundwater is continually pumped out of the aquifer, the system is not being “recharged” fast enough to keep up with demand. Furthermore, as the water levels continue to decline, naturally occurring brines (salt) found in the bedrock aquifer are mixing with the groundwater at an increasing rate, resulting in a higher concentration of chloride in the water.  Elevated levels of sodium chloride in water can corrode pipes, damage crops, and potentially exacerbate health concerns among individuals with high blood pressure. The Static Water Levels (SWLs), which is the level of water in a well when the pump is not operating, have actually been on the decline in this area since the 1960s. Extensive historical data shows that some areas of the County have seen a drop of as much as 40 feet over the last 50+ years. Estimates show that if water consumption continues on the current path without intervention, these areas will see another 10 to 15-foot decline in the next 20 years. A decline of this magnitude could result in wells that are inoperable due to reduced or minimally available water resources or unusable because of high chloride concentrations.

Effective water management and planning is key to reversing these issues. “The groundwater concern in Ottawa County is not unresolvable,” said John Yellich, Director of the Michigan Geological Survey. “Other areas of the country have faced similar challenges, and they’ve been able to develop successful strategies to ensure a sustainable water supply.” Another important factor in Ottawa County’s planning effort is to promote and reinforce the need for all residents and businesses to practice water conservation. Paul Sachs, Director of Ottawa County’s Planning and Performance Improvement Department, added, “As the County, West Michigan, and Michigan as a whole continue to prosper, the need for everyone to recognize and practice water conservation will become increasingly more important. Our fresh water supply is not unlimited.”

The County’s Plan for managing its groundwater resources into the future is a collaborative effort that involves multiple partners including, but not limited to, Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute, Michigan Geological Survey, Michigan Groundwater Association, the County Department of Public Health, and County Road Commission Public Utilities Department, among many other stakeholders, scientists, experts, and local decision-makers.

To learn more about how Ottawa County is proactively addressing this groundwater issue and what you can do to help, go to Here you can watch a short video titled “Managing Our Groundwater,” read in-depth about the County’s Groundwater Study and the conceptual Groundwater Management Plan, utilize an interactive groundwater mapping tool, and learn ways to conserve water at your home or workplace.


Editor’s Comment:
The problem could be solved by reducing the water use by farmers and commercial. All residential reduction combined will have little effect.