Ottawa County

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.


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

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 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.


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 and, contact, 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

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,, 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

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,, 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: 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

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

To learn more about the program, complete a Pre-Application, and more, visit Interested parties are also welcome to contact our Farmland Preservation staff directly. Contact Julie Lamer at 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

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,, or visit To learn more about LNA’s services, please contact LNA at (616) 594-7133 or visit

Vaping is a Serious Health Threat

Health Advisory

Severe Lung Injury Associated with Electronic Cigarette Product Use or Vaping

lunginjuryThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a national outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). As of January 7, 2020, a total of 2,602 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands). Fifty-seven deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia (as of January 7, 2020).


The Ottawa County Department of Public Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommend the following for the public:

People should not use THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly from informal sources like friends, family or in-person or online sellers.
E-cigarette or vaping products should never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.
Individuals who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette or vaping products.
Vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette or vaping products.
Additionally, people should not add any other substances not intended by the manufacturer to products, including products purchased through retail establishments.
While it appears that vitamin E acetate is associated with EVALI, there are many different substances and product sources that are being investigated, and there may be more than one cause. Therefore, the best way for people to ensure that they are not at risk while the investigation continues is to consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette or vaping products. Most EVALI cases in Michigan and nationwide reported vaping THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) alone or in combination with nicotine.
Adults who continue to use an e-cigarette or vaping products should carefully monitor themselves for symptoms, such as such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever and/or nausea and vomiting, and see a healthcare provider immediately if they develop symptoms like those reported in this outbreak.
Adults using e-cigarettes or vaping products as an alternative to cigarettes should not go back to smoking. They should weigh all available information and consider using FDA-approved cessation medications. They should contact their healthcare provider if they need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are not FDA approved as a smoking cessation device.

Free help is available for individuals who are interested in quitting tobacco:

Michigan Quitline 1-800-QuitNow for adults
MyLifeMyQuit for youth 18 years and younger.

Fifth Judgeship Recommended for Ottawa County

The Michigan Supreme Court, through the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO), released the 2019 Judicial Resources Recommendations for the State of Michigan. The report concluded that an additional circuit judgeship be added to the 20th Circuit Court in Ottawa County. These recommendations were based on SCAO’s most recent biennial review of the judicial needs of Michigan courts, and have been forwarded to the legislature. New judgeships must be created by legislation and then approved by the County Board of Commissioners before a new judge can be elected.

The review of trial court judgeships begins with a statistical analysis by SCAO. Case filings are weighted to reflect the amount of judicial time necessary to handle each case type. For each jurisdiction where the statistical analysis indicated a significant judicial need, the SCAO conducted a secondary analysis focusing on the specific needs of the court, and other factors not accounted for in the weighted caseload formula.

The results of this extensive analysis demonstrated an overall need of 10.0-10.3 judgeships in Ottawa County. Since 2005, when the last judgeship was created, Ottawa County has covered the judicial workload with nine judges (four Circuit Court, four District Court, one Probate Court). The 20th Circuit Court handles serious criminal cases, business court cases, civil cases where more than $25,000 is in dispute, appeals from District Court and state agencies, juvenile delinquency cases, child welfare cases, and domestic relations cases (including divorce, child custody and parenting time disputes). During the past 15 years, the population of Ottawa County has significantly increased and the courts’ caseload has also increased in size and complexity.

20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg expressed his thanks to the Michigan Supreme Court and SCAO Administrator Milton L. Mack, Jr. for this recommendation, and noted that it is supported by the 20th Circuit Court. Based on caseload increases, especially within the Family Division of the Circuit Court, it is likely the 5th Circuit Judge will be assigned to the Family Division to help provide timely services to the children and families of Ottawa County.

Vanderberg Reappointed to The Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission

adminvandenbergGovernor Gretchen Whitmer reappointed Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg to the Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission with a term expiring December 15, 2023.

“I am pleased and honored to be reappointed to the Michigan Child Lead Exposure Commission. This work must remain a priority until lead levels in children are abated and eliminated,” said Vanderberg.

Alan G. Vanderberg, of Grand Rapids, is the County Administrator for Ottawa County, a position he has held since 2003. He holds a Master of Public Administration from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan.

The Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission focuses on implementing the recommendations of the former Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board and monitoring the state’s efforts to eliminate lead exposure in children. The Commission acts in an advisory capacity to the Governor and department director to coordinate and collaborate with all levels of government and stakeholders regarding programs and policies related to the elimination of child lead exposure.

Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board Recommends $300,000 for Grand River Greenway

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) board recommended $300,000 in development funds to be allocated to Ottawa County Parks & Recreation for development and construction of a 1-mile segment of the Idema Explorers Trail in Jenison at their annual meeting in December.

December 18, 2019 — The Idema Explorers Trail is a key feature of the Grand River Greenway which is comprised of 9,000 acres of public land between Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. The preservation of this land provides scenic natural spaces and high quality habitat for both wildlife and recreation. Currently, 13 miles of the 36.5-mile Idema Explorers Trail have been constructed with another 12 being engineered.

This Jenison Mill segment will connect a portion of the Idema Explorers Trail along Cottonwood Drive  to existing trail in Kent County. It allows users easier access the Grand River; great recreation areas like Millennium Park, which has 20 miles of paved pathway; and, many miles of regional trail, including seven miles of riverfront trail in Kent County, the Grand Rapids bike lane network, Kent Trails, and the Fred Meijer Standale Trail.

“One of our goals is to connect with neighboring communities and to connect to our waterfront,” said Jim Wierenga, Georgetown Township Supervisor. “We were excited the Idema Explorers Trail created a connection to Allendale last fall and look forward to connecting with Kent County, as well as to the Grand River. We are a community with a river that runs through it and that resource is often overlooked. The more the Grand River Greenway project moves forward, the more this asset in our community begins to capture the attention of our citizens. I get many thanks from the people within our township for the Grand River Greenway,” said Wierenga.

Other partners in the project are thrilled about this news. “We are working hard to raise the funds needed to make the vision of the Grand River Greenway a reality. Having the support of the Trust Fund and the community makes our work that much easier. We believe in what we’re doing, but it is great to hear that they do too,” said Bobbi Jones Sabine, President of the Ottawa County Parks Foundation. “Giving everyone access to the scenic spaces and connected trails along the Grand River Greenway will improve the quality of life for current and future West Michigan residents.”

Recreation Opportunities

In addition to opening up recreation opportunities on land, it also creates more access for anglers. “Connecting Georgetown Township and Ottawa County trails to the Kent County trails on the east side will provide anglers an easy path to access quality shorefishing sites,” said Dr. Dan O’Keefe Michigan Sea Grant Coordinator at MSU Extension in a letter of support for the project. “Certain areas are also wadeable in summer due to the hard substrate. Wading is very popular upstream in Grand Rapids, but virtually unheard of in Ottawa County due to the lack of access to rare hard-bottomed areas such as this.”

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.