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Memorial Day
'It's humbling': Flags placed at veterans' graves

In observance of Memorial Day, members of the American Legion Post 28 placed hundreds of flags on veterans’ graves at Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery on Thursday.

Among the American Legion members placing flags was the husband and wife team of Mike and Courtney Thurber – both U.S. Navy veterans – accompanied by their 8-year-old son, Michael.

While Michael said placing the flags was “fun,” it was a more somber occasion for his dad.

“It’s humbling – that’s the best way I can put it,” Mike said. “To walk along and place a flag on my brothers who have fallen, who have served and passed on, is humbling.”

Mike said he was concerned that Memorial Day festivities would be limited due to COVID-19 concerns, so he volunteered to help out.

“We’ll also be raising the flag at the waterfront ceremony Monday,” he said.

The group was led by a past post commander, Dave MacKeller, who said those placing the flags did their best to observe social-distancing guidelines.

Ferrysburg pursues Smith's Bridge repair grant
mhavenga / Tribune photo / Marie Havenga 

Ferrysburg City Council is pursuing a state grant for repairs to Smith’s Bridge. If approved, construction would begin in 2023 and the project would last about three months.

FERRYSBURG — Hopes are high for a state grant for Smith’s Bridge repairs.

During a virtual meeting Monday night, the Ferrysburg City Council unanimously approved applying for a $1.3 million state local bridge grant. The city would kick in a 15 percent match.

If the grant is approved, construction would begin in 2023. The bridge would be closed to vehicles during the anticipated three-month construction period.

The city has been turned down for four other grant requests for bridge replacement. Those requests were for more than $10 million of the estimated $13 million replacement cost.

Engineers from Fleis & VandenBrink say there’s a better chance of success applying for a repair grant versus a replacement grant.

“We’re hoping that it is successful this year,” City Manager Craig Bessinger said. “The previous grant applications in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were to replace (the bridge). This is to do repairs. The engineers indicated this repair would extend the life of the bridge 15 to 20 years.”

The scope of improvements includes replacing the asphalt wearing surface with concrete overlay, patching cracks and damaged areas of concrete box beams, pier protection and navigation improvements, widening the concrete sidewalk, and improving the approaches.

Fleis & VandenBrink engineer Jon Moxey, who attended Monday’s virtual meeting, estimates $150,000 for the approach, curb and sidewalk work, and $1.2 million for the bridge structure – for a total of just over $1.3 million.

“That includes a pretty healthy contingency and includes three years of inflation,” he said.

Moxey explained to City Council members that the grant application, which is due June 1, requires a minimum 5 percent match, but a higher match can make approval more likely.

“They have a field in the application so you can offer more than 5 percent to make the application more attractive,” he said. “I recommend going to 10 to 20 percent. It always looks better if you’re putting more skin the game, so to speak.”

The council ultimately decided on a 15 percent match. Mayor Rebecca Hopp estimates the project will cost the city between $325,000 and $455,000.

Bessinger said the city’s estimated reserve fund – $260,000 as of June 30 and $85,000 for the next fiscal year – should be enough to cover the city’s portion of bridge repair costs.

Moxey said at least one lane under the bridge will be open to boating traffic during the construction, but he said closing the road to vehicular traffic would cut down on costs and also lead to a better finished product.”

Councilman Mike DeWitt said he’s in favor of closing the bridge during the three-month construction period.

The bridge was closed last June after engineers identified structural damage and reopened in January after a second engineering opinion.

“Our residents have dealt with it closed for three months already,” DeWitt said. “If we’re going to get a better product, I think we should close it.”

Health Care
NOCH encouraged as governor eases surgery restrictions

North Ottawa Community Hospital has been ready for the surge of COVID-19 patients, which so far have not materialized.

So, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that she was rescinding the part of her executive order that banned elective surgeries, NOCH staff applauded.

Elective surgeries are allowed to begin again May 29.

“We’re so excited,” said hospital spokeswoman Jennifer VanSkiver.

The Grand Haven hospital had to lay off staff when elective surgeries were shut down and the surge of patients with the coronavirus never showed.

VanSkiver said that some experts are still predicting a surge, but that it will be more of a “hill” than a “mountain.”

On May 4, most of the NOCH staff were recalled so that the hospital could start doing surgeries on patients that had become more urgent cases.

“People with emergent situations are calling,” VanSkiver said. “It’s slow but sure. Doctors are calling now, too.”

VanSkiver said that this was the next step based on disease progression and hospital readiness.

Extensive safety measures will remain in place, she said.

What happens

Patients and staff will still enter through the main doorway. Everyone will answer a questionnaire and get their temperature checked.

“We’re still limiting visitors and limiting where patients go in the building,” VanSkiver said.

All patients scheduled for surgery will receive a test for the virus. If they are positive, they will be asked to quarantine. If they are sick, surgery is postponed.

The hospital has conducted a little more than 1,000 tests for COVID-19 so far, with just over 100 of them resulting in positive tests, according to Nicole Kamp, director of the NOCH lab.

The hospital is also administering antibody tests and has been doing so for about a month, but the results usually take a couple of days to get back from an external lab. Starting Tuesday, the tests will be processed in-house with about an hour turnaround, Kamp said.

The lab director said there are still a lot of questions around the information they obtain from the antibody test.

“My thoughts are that anyone who tests positive for the antibody will also be tested for the virus,” Kamp said.

The antibody test costs about $45 each, while the virus test is a little more expensive. Kamp said that she believes most insurance companies are covering the cost of the tests.

Anyone desiring a test must still be referred by his or her doctor or through the testing hotline, she said.

VanSkiver said people needing screenings, infusions, vaccines and any kind of elective surgeries are encouraged to contact their doctors to get things rolling.

She emphasized that there are no cleaner and safer places than the hospitals, and that people shouldn’t be afraid to use their services.