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Charlotte

Charlotte

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Candidate forum offers opportunity to get to know potential council members

An invitation has been extended to each candidate running for a seat on Charlotte’s City Council to attend a candidate forum on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m., in the lower level of the Courthouse Museum. The forum is an opportunity for candidates to present themselves and their stance on local issues to local voters.

Organized by former Charlotte High School teacher, Ben Phlegar, the forum has been designed more as a meet and greet than a debate. Each candidate will be given five minutes for opening statements, followed by questions from the audience. Once all candidates in a particular race have finished, each will have an additional two minutes for closing statements.

The forum will be moderated by Travis Silvas of The County Journal.

The forum will begin with City Council District 1, which features Yvonne Ridge running unopposed. It will proceed with District 2 candidates, incumbent Brad Johnston, and challengers Branden Dyer and Kyle Ried. The forum then shifts to Council At Large, featuring candidates Darryl Baker and Doug Rosier. The forum will conclude with the mayoral race wherein current City of Charlotte Mayor Tim Lewis is running unopposed.

All candidates, aside from Ried, have RSVP’d with their planned attendance at the forum.

Phlegar said he used to invite local candidates into his classroom at Charlotte High School to share their reasons for running for office. This opportunity is an extension of what he did as a teacher and put this together with the goal of informing and involving the community in local government.

The theme of the evening, as established by Phlegar, is civility, not discourse. The forum’s format is intended to give the audience an opportunity to have what could amount to a constructive conversation with each candidate. The goal is to give community members and potential voters the opportunity to become more informed about each candidate, their ideas and the passion each demonstrates for their community.

Olivet

Olivet

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Longtime resident compelled to play Charlotte’s colorful pianos

A light morning shower caused a few of the piano keys on the piano that resides outside of Windwalker Underground Gallery to stick. Only, you couldn’t really tell as 97-year-old Dorothy Osborn tickled the ivories to an old honky tonk song. Though the sticking keys were a minor cause of frustration, she never let it affect her playing.

Dorothy, who grew up on the family farm just outside of Olivet, was making one last stop at the piano before heading to her winter home in Clearwater, Fla. She and her husband of 73 years, Marvin, come back to the family farm each summer.

It was this most recent visit that Dorothy discovered Charlotte’s newest pieces of public art. Having played piano for nearly 90 years, she finds that the public pianos fit her playing style, which she refers to as stride. Though she never played professionally, Dorothy said she still plays two or three times a week, which is very apparent if you ever hear how smooth her honky tonk sound is.

She said she played in a band in high school that would travel to other area high schools to perform, but never took her music beyond that. She still loves to play for fun, however. She has played several public pianos in the Lansing area, and her adopted home of Clearwater. She said she was excited to see the movement catch on in Charlotte.

“I remember mother coming into Charlotte and tying the horse to the post downtown,” Dorothy said. “We’ve come home to the farm every summer for the past 20 years.”

Bellevue

Bellevue

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Bellevue historians disappointed over loss of township building

Tucked away in a back corner of the Bellevue Township Library is a room filled with historical documents, clothing, knickknacks, furniture, and more. This room is home to the Bellevue Historical Society.

This group of Bellevue locals, many who spent their whole lives in Bellevue, look over the room and its contents as well as the legacy of their beloved village. Like many others, these folks have watched the change in Bellevue, often with disappointment.

In the July 1 edition of the paper, the County Journal ran an article about the Bellevue Township building, which is to be torn down to accommodate a drive through for the Fruin Pharmacy. Although nothing at this point can be done to change the coming adjustment to the face of Bellevue’s downtown, representatives from the Bellevue Historical Society still want readers to understand how such changes affect the character of the village.

Bellevue was the first of many things in Eaton County, according to Joyce Miller, and had several defining characteristics. One of the defining characteristics was the Burt Portland Cement Plant in Bellevue, which provided the cement for the bank building that was erected in the 1920s. While the Bellevue Township building (formerly the bank) isn’t nice marble, its material is still representative of the legacy and character of Bellevue.

Miller believes that the building, for having a historic designation, wasn’t maintained properly. She believes there would be no need for the township to find a different space to work from if it had been maintained the way it was supposed to be.

President of the Bellevue Historical Society, John Dexter, sees the loss of the township building as part of a growing trend. As larger corporations and companies settle in new areas small towns are often faced with the choice to preserve historic focal points, or allow stable businesses to expand.

“Almost every small town is losing businesses in some way or another,” said John.

It’s unfortunate to John, but ultimately he acknowledged the predicament Bellevue is faced with. But as historians of the oldest Eaton County Village, John and Joyce know the hard truth that once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Like many other residents, John and Joyce are at a loss of ideas for what to do to preserve Bellevue’s historic downtown while also keeping visitors interested and coming back. They hope the trend stops with the township building, and they hope even more that other citizens will take on the concern and interest for local history.

Eaton County

Eaton County

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Eaton County

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Country Mill allowed to return to East Lansing farmers market

The Country Mill, a favored local orchard, winery, and wedding venue in the Eaton County area, has been a hot topic in conversations of religious freedom, business, and LGBTQ discrimination for the last several months. When Steve Tennes, owner of the Country Mill, announced the reopening of the wedding venue side of the business with the exception of same-sex marriages, the City of East Lansing did not allow the favored vendor a spot at its farmers market.

The Tenneses reluctantly decided to sue the City of East Lansing on the grounds of religious discrimination. A motion was filed to allow the Country Mill a place at the East Lansing farmers market while the case continues. Wednesday, Sept. 13 both sides made their arguments before federal district judge, Paul Maloney, and ultimately he sided with the Country Mill, thus allowing the business to return to the farmers market while the case continues. Judge Maloney released a written decision the following Friday, and the Country Mill was back at the East Lansing farmers market Sunday, Sept. 17.

“We’re extremely happy the judge recognized the short window of harvest. We’ve already missed three and a half months of income at the largest farmers market we attend,” said Steve.

The return to the East Lansing farmers market was met with both support and protest. Tennes noted the number of out-of-town buyers who drove great lengths to express their support for the Country Mill, as well as the several protestors who aimed to discourage people from buying from “bigoted” business owners. Even with the protestors and several months of threats and discouragement, the Tenneses are choosing to be thankful for ample support.

According to Steve, they’ve even received encouragement from people who disagree with their beliefs and policies.

“There are Americans who believe in freedom of religion and the right to act how you want in your own home without fear of government punishment,” said Steve.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents the Country Mill in the lawsuit against East Lansing. In the case of the Tenneses they maintain that denying the Country Mill a license for the East Lansing farmers market is an overreach of and distortion of anti-discrimination laws.

“We’re seeing cities and states apply anti-discrimination laws in an odd way,” said Kate Anderson, the Tenneses’ attorney from ADF. “All Steve did was state his beliefs, and that has nothing to do with selling apples at the market.”

In a statement published Sept. 19 in the Detroit Free Press, mayor of East Lansing, Mark Meadows, noted the disappointment with the federal court decision. He believes the City’s “intentions in this case have been mischaracterized by Country Mill as well as in some coverage of this suit.”

Meadows went on to write that the city does not have a problem with the Tenneses’ religious beliefs, but with their business policy of not allowing LGBTQ weddings at their venue.

“Country Mill lost its spot at the Farmer’s Market because of its business practices. Same-sex couples have a right to be married. Country Mill offers a public accommodation that discriminates against same-sex couples and has turned same-sex couples away when they have sought out the public marriage venue.

“It has been asserted that Country Mill had no option but to sue the City. In fact, it did have another option. It could have stopped discriminating against same-sex couples,” wrote Meadows.

The decision from the federal court stands for the remainder of the farmers market season. According to Anderson this was only the first step in the lawsuit. Whether the Tenneses win the case remains to be seen.

Vermontville

Vermontville

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Byler shares passion for archery at Whispering Pines

Nathan Byler still fondly recalls the first deer he ever harvested with his bow. Only 13 years old at the time, he remembers being slightly off his mark as the first arrow he ever launched at a deer sailed harmlessly by. Undeterred, he was given a second opportunity when a larger deer crossed his path. This time, he didn’t miss.

The experience ignited a passion for bow hunting, one he’s translated into his own business — Whispering Pines Archery.

Open since 2014, Byler focuses his energy on getting his clients to the next level in shooting.

“I know how it is to be frustrated with archery,” Byler said. “If I don’t help my customers shoot better, I didn’t accomplish my goal.”

Offering everything a bow hunter would need for their compound bow or crossbow, Whispering Pines Archery places an emphasis on properly setting up and tuning each bow they sell or service.

“I stand behind the products I sell and behind my work,” Byler said. “I want to make sure the bow is tuned right and is the right fit for the archer.”

Ensuring his customers are set up with good flight is Byler’s top priority.

“I keep my tuning fees reasonable so people will want to have their bow property tuned,” he said.

Whispering Pines Archery offers a wide range of bows, arrows, quivers, targets and accessories. Nestled in the wood off of Valley Highway in Vermontville, the archery shop also has a range for customers to try out a bow before they buy.

Whispering Pines Archery is located at 8850 Valley Highway in Vermontville, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Byler said after hours appointments are also available to those who cannot make it during normal business hours. For more information, call (517) 726-0518.

Potterville

Potterville

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Potterville

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Interim Superintendent selected for Potterville Schools

In early July the Potterville school board appointed an interim superintendent for the school district. Tom Pillar, a retired superintendent from Waverly schools, is set to fill the interim role until the summer of 2018, by which point the Potterville school board hopes to have a candidate to fill the position permanently.

The need for an interim superintendent follows after former superintendent Tim Donahue resigned from his position in May of 2017. Donahue resigned from his position due to a new employment opportunity with Buchanan Public Schools. According to school board president, Stacey Sipes, Donahue had been open to the possibility of a new superintendent position for a couple of years.

Donahue started as an interim superintendent at Potterville schools in 2006, before moving into the permanent role. Because the Potterville school board had not done a thorough search, interview, and hiring process for a superintendent for over ten years, the current board decided to appoint someone temporarily to the role so there would be ample time to find a suitable candidate.

Upon deciding to take more time and care in selecting a new superintendent, the board next decided to seek the aid of an executive search service, which is a common standard according to Sipes. The Michigan Association of School Boards is providing the search service for Potterville schools, which is an organization interim superintendent Pillar has worked closely with.

In moving forward with the search process Sipes indicated a few things the school board is looking for in a candidate. Ample knowledge and experience with budget, ability to draw and retain staff members, and ability to conform to the needs of a smaller school district and community are a few of the basic characteristics for a desired superintendent. Quality leadership skills are generally what the board is seeking out for the district.

The school board, however, acknowledges that this is a community decision, according to Sipes. She and other board members are eager to hear from members of the Potterville community via online surveys, town hall style forums, fall conferences, and more. Sipes encourages all members of the community, parents of current students or not,  jbring forward input. She also hopes to include Michigan Association of School Boards on the upcoming conversations and forums.

To learn more about the Potterville superintendent search and how to be involved in that process, readers are encouraged to visit the Potterville Public Schools website and locate the school board member contact information.

Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

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Morgan’s HUGS an inspiring charity for Eaton Rapids

Inspiring stories come from thousands of places. Everybody’s story is unique in its own way, but stories of people stepping out of their norm and comfort to help others are especially uplifting. They make us wonder how someone could give so sacrificially of themselves and be so centered on the needs of others.

One story in Eaton Rapids is both inspiring and unexpected.

Morgan Scarbro is 13 years old. She’s a student in Eaton Rapids, as well as a regular beauty pageant participant. She likes horses, spending time with friends, and other activities any normal teenager enjoys. But Morgan also enjoys helping people, so she started her own charity organization, Morgan’s HUGS, which aims to lend assistance to wounded veterans and children in need.

Morgan’s HUGS was started when Morgan was five years old. For most of her young life she’s recognized how many people are less fortunate than she is. Now with a platform of her own, Morgan aims to help as many people as she can. She’s hosted dozens of events to collect funds and resources for veterans and children.

This September she’s hosted two events. The most recent was this week, Tuesday, Sept. 19. At the Eaton Rapids Administration Building were dozens of tables with everything from food to clothing. It was an opportunity for low-income families to collect items for the school year. The event was a kickoff for the 2017-2018 school year.

Local businesses offered their support for the event. There were bounce houses for children and food and drinks for visitors. The whole thing was quite a sight to see. Families came to gather what they needed to support their children through another tight-budget school year, while enjoying a laid back celebration of the end of the summer and beginning of fall. And at the center, entertaining questions from locals, keeping track of goings on at the event, and trying to still have fun with her friends was Morgan, a 13 year old who still has homework to do.

“She wants everyone to have the same advantages as her. She wants to make everyone happy and take care of people,” said Patti Christmas, a close family friend and spokesperson for Morgan’s HUGS.

No one, including Morgan knows what Morgan’s HUGS will blossom into. Right now she’s still a high school freshman who has the responsibilities of every other high school student. But Morgan has taken it upon herself to go above and beyond. She feels it’s a responsibility to serve others regardless of what other things are going on in everyday life. It’s not lost on her that she’s getting media attention, and to her that’s kind of the point. She hopes people, especially her peers, will see her example and start doing their part help those in need.

“Most kids my age have the time and energy to do what I do,” said Morgan.

Morgan has been interviewed by a number of larger news media organizations. But for the Flashes community, we just get to marvel at the ingenuity and selflessness of one of our own. A homegrown, organic Eaton Rapids teenager who just wants to help her community.

Sunfield

Sunfield

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Mulliken

Mulliken

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Dimondale

Dimondale

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