ter Park subdivision in late September caused much debate among the community, law enforcement personnel and gun club members.
Here are what we have decided to be the top 10 local stories in 2011:
1. Gun club under fire over errant shots
Residents of the Cutter Park subdivision were up in arms after bullets hit their homes and a 30-year-old Grand Haven man who was working on a house. The bullets came from Grand Valley State University police officers who were using the North Ottawa Rod & Gun Club, located about a half-mile west of Cutter Park, for weapon training on Sept. 29. Following a report from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, no criminal charges were filed. The last news of the topic came in mid-November when the club said they intended to hire the National Rifle Association Range Technical Team to evaluate the outdoor shooting range.
2. Grand Haven public safety chief fired
Dennis Edwards, director of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, was placed on administrative leave in November 2010 over a dispute with City Manager Pat McGinnis. Edwards said the dispute was over the legality of city speed limits. Grand Haven City Council voted 3-1 in February to terminate Edwards. In December, council approved the hiring of a retired Cadillac public safety director, 47-year-old Jeff Hawke, as Grand Haven’s public safety director. He is set to begin Jan. 9.
3. Grand Haven Township voters say yes to Harbor Transit
Harbor Transit buses will be rolling down Grand Haven Township roads in January, thanks to the passage of a 0.95-mill transportation tax by township voters in May. The millage — approved 1,060 to 739 — will fund the Grand Haven-based bus system’s expansion into the township; as well as funds for repairing roads, bridges and drains.
4. End of the Washington Avenue reconstruction project
In June, city leaders and downtown merchants celebrated the completion of a nearly two-year, $6.5 million streetscape project for Washington Avenue’s first three blocks. The improvements included new utilities beneath the street, new street and sidewalk surfaces, streetscape and landscaping, and a snowmelt system that was first turned on last winter. “These are the kinds of experiences visitors want when they come to a downtown,” said Travel Michigan Director George Zimmerman.
5. Spring Lake school board votes to lay off teachers, privatize custodial services
With dollars being squeezed at nearly every school district in the state, the Spring Lake Board of Education made moves at the end of the last school year to trim thousands of dollars from that district’s budget. In May, the school board approved layoffs for 16 teachers and some paraprofessionals in a move to close a projected $3.1 million budget shortfall. In June, the school board voted to privatize custodial services at all of its schools, awarding a three-year contract to a cleaning service and laying off the district’s 12 custodians. In August, the school board approved a two-year deal with the teachers union that they said would allow them to recall some of the laid-off teachers.
6. New library director quits after one week
Loutit District Library had a new director this spring, but he abruptly left the building after just one week for an undisclosed job offer elsewhere. “A different path has presented itself,” L.J. Frank wrote in his resignation letter in April. The library board didn’t waste much time in hiring a replacement: John Martin, a Grand Haven native who had served as director of the Oak Park Library since 1990. Martin began working at Loutit in June.
7. Grand Haven, Ferrysburg get new mayors
Voters in the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg elected new mayors in November. Former City Councilwoman Geri McCaleb defeated two write-in candidates to win the mayoral post in Grand Haven. She takes over for Roger Bergman, who had been the city’s mayor for the past eight years. Two Ferrysburg councilmen faced off in the Nov. 8 election for that city’s mayoral post, and Dan Ruiter topped John Stafford to win the seat. Ruiter replaces Jeff Stille, who had been Ferrysburg’s mayor since 2007.
8. Clarence “Tad” Poel dies
Longtime Grand Haven Tribune writer Clarence “Tad” Poel died Nov. 20 at the age of 91. Poel was born and raised in Grand Haven, and started his long career with the Tribune as sports editor in the 1940s. He later became managing editor, switched to editorial page editor in 1973 and, in later years, wrote a twice-weekly “Focus on People” column until a year ago.
9. Coast Guard boat display moved and replaced
The old, deteriorating wooden Coast Guard surf boat that was displayed for nearly 20 years on the Seventh Street traffic island, west of Beacon Boulevard, was hauled away to a Muskegon museum in September. A newer, 41-foot utility boat — the type used by Station Grand Haven from 1976-98 — was brought to Grand Haven in December. The plan is to refurbish it over the winter and set in place on the Seventh Street traffic island in the spring.
10. Officers mourn loss of one of their own after bank heist chase, shoot-out
Members of local police and fire departments showed in force at the funeral of Walker policeman Trevor Slot in October. Slot was setting stop strips on Interstate 96 in Ottawa County on Oct. 13 when he was struck and killed by the getaway car of bank robbers who were fleeing from police. The two suspects had robbed a bank in Ravenna that morning and were killed in a shoot-out with police near Marne, moments after Slot’s death.
Other stories of note: St. Patrick’s/St. Anthony’s Catholic churches restructure; parents mixed about Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ plans to restructure middle schools, full-day kindergarten; school systems share services to cut budgets; Ottawa County jumps 10.6 percent in 2010 Census report; armed robberies at Reef and Oaklea party stores; Greenway project opens; Fallen Heroes Memorial installed in Grand Haven’s Central Park; Rocketfish; Ed Post wins second-straight Grand Haven ArtWalk; Love INC shelter opens; Grand Landing in receivership; Kenneth Pott replaces Dennis Swartout as museum chief.