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WSCC mulls options for officer

West Shore Community College will look at its options for a uniformed police presence and assistance in preparation for potential incidents on campus in the wake of Tuesday’s Mason County Board of Commissioners meeting where a contract for a deputy was voted down.

The county board considered a contract between the county and the college for a Mason County Sheriff’s Deputy, and the deputy’s salary and benefits would have been paid for by the college from Sept. 1 through April 30 and the county would have paid for the remaining months. The county commission voted, 5-2, to decline the contract.

“There’s many different ways to approach this. I was really excited about this solution,” West Shore Community College President Scott Ward said Wednesday. “I thought it better served the full community.”

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said it was up to the college if it wants to pursue a contract again with the county, but believed it may not be supported by the county commission if it were presented again.

“I mentioned I would have liked to have seen more positive conversations in the committee levels,” Cole said Wednesday. “I think the board was looking for reasons for not doing it (going with the contract), than for doing it. Four of the five (that voted against it) never gave a reason why, and they don’t owe that to me.”

Ward said the college has spent the better part of two years trying to increase a security presence on the campus, and the college and sheriff worked on the contract that was eventually presented to the board for 14 months.

“As I indicated to the sheriff, I give him so much credit for his initiatives and thoughts,” Ward said. “I know it pains him. He saw the benefit for both the college and the community. The college has to move on.”

Ward said the college has sought out other ideas from colleges and universities to determine what they do for campus security and security planning, and how they do it. Some of those ideas ranged from contracted security agencies, hiring off-duty or retired officers or the partnership between public entities such as the contract considered on Tuesday.

“That type of agreement keeps us from entering into the law enforcement business,” Ward said of the contract. “I’m excited, that in the next year, we’ll be out of the water business and we can concentrate on academics. I also don’t want to enter the law enforcement business.”

Both Ward and Cole also took note of the security measures around the courthouse that were mentioned during deliberations of the contract, and how that appeared to affect the consideration of the contract before the county board.

Ward said the staff working with risk management at the college will need to develop a new plan to get the service the college sought from the county.

“We will look more depth at those other (models),” Ward said. “We have enough knowledge, but not in-the-weeds details… We now have to go in-depth with all the legal concerns.”

Ward said last year, the sheriff’s office had an increased presence on the campus, even without the contract in place.

“I can’t say enough of how accommodating the sheriff has been, including increasing officer presence on campus last year,” he said. “The sheriff went out of his way to have a deputy on campus last year, (and it was) fully-funded by the county.”

Developer aims to turn Rowe Street building into apartments

The three-story brick building at 801 N. Rowe St. in Ludington has been used for many commercial purposes throughout its 100-plus-year existence; now, its new owner has plans to convert it into 65 apartments called Lofts on Rowe.

The building is owned by Third Coast Development, a Grand Rapids-based developer and rental company. Brad Rosely, one of the principal owners of the company, met with residents of the houses surrounding the building Tuesday evening to discuss Third Coast’s vision for the property.

“This is a building in your neighborhood that’s been there since 1894, and we are looking to redevelop the thing,” Rosely told the neighbors. “It has been vacant for approximately 19 years.”

Rosely said the building would be renovated and restored, since he plans to apply for the building to join the National Register of Historic Places. Due to the requirements of historic preservation, the exterior of the building would largely remain the same, but the brickwork and the windows would be replaced with ones consistent with the building’s original 1890s style.

“It’s such a great building that we want to bring it back to the luster that it used to have,” Rosely said.

Solar panels would also be installed on the roof, but they’d be out of sight since they’re not historically consistent. New trees would be planted, and sidewalks, curbs and gutters would be installed around the property.

Elements of the interior — such as columns and brickwork — would also be preserved; however, the inside would be converted into nine studio apartments, 45 one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units.

Monthly rent would be $795 for a studio apartment, $895 for a one-bedroom unit, $975 for a two-bedroom and $1,200 for a three-bedroom apartment, Rosely said.

There would be 84 parking spaces on the property for tenants and visitors. There would also be a small commercial space for a business, such as a coffee shop, to operate in.

“We don’t see it being a huge money-maker, but we think it’s really good for the community and the neighborhood to have something like that, that you can walk out there on a Saturday morning and grab a cup of coffee and a doughnut, or something like that, and wander to the green space,” Rosely said.

The property would feature an outdoor green space and community area for the neighborhood to use, Rosely said, adding that he’s seeking input about what amenities that should include, whether it’s a playground or a basketball court.

“There will be some type of community element there that the whole neighborhood and the whole city gets to use,” he said.

Rosely said the renovation project would receive funding help from Michigan Community Capital, and that he’s also hoping the project will receive tax credits for historic register, solar energy and brownfield redevelopment.

Rosely said the building would qualify as a brownfield, since Third Coast will have to remove asbestos from the floors and seal in any lead paint — since historic preservation wouldn’t let them remove the paint — so the property would be safe to occupy. Rosely said that during the removal of hazardous materials, no harmful dust would be released into the neighborhood, and the waste would be properly disposed.

“It will be completely encased. We have a certified asbestos removal company that does that,” he said.

The meeting, which was held at the Lakeshore Resource Network, was also attended by Ludington city councilors Kathy Winczewski and Joe Lenius — who represent the neighborhoods surrounding the building — City Manager Mitch Foster and Mayor Steve Miller.

Winczewski said Third Coast’s renovation proposal for the building has not yet been approved by the Ludington Planning Commission, which will perform a site plan review of the property. The planning commission is expected to consider the site plan during an upcoming meeting.

Rosely said the process of joining the historic register takes three to six months. In the meantime, parts of the project such as removing graffiti and rubble from the building and replacing the roof could be done to clean and preserve the building.

He said he would like construction to begin before the end of 2019. He hopes the project would take less than a year to complete, although with old buildings, unforeseen delays aren’t unusual, he said.

Third Coast was contacted by the Pennies from Heaven Foundation more than a year ago to look at redeveloping the property, Rosely explained. He said that Third Coast has renovated several “dilapidated” historical buildings and former industrial sites before. Third Coast owns more than 1,000 rental units among various locations, he said.

After the renovation of the Rowe Street building, Third Coast would maintain an office on the property to oversee the rental operation itself, rather than contracting with a rental management company or selling the apartments, Rosely said.

Several of the neighbors who attended the meeting voiced their concerns regarding traffic in the neighborhood surrounding the building. They said the roads are narrow and it’s difficult with the semi-truck traffic. They also said that some cars passing through the neighborhood drive far above the speed limit and don’t stop at the stop signs.

The residents also worried about whether the 84 parking spaces would be sufficient, and they were concerned about maintaining privacy and safety for the neighborhood children. They were also concerned about how the renovated building would affect their own property values or taxes.

Rosely said he thinks the building would increase property values for the neighborhood. He also assured them that the project would require no funding from the City of Ludington.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure we exceed everyone’s expectations,” he added.

LACA to host one-night art exhibit

The artwork of six members of the Alliance of Kalamazoo Artists will be featured in a one-night-only, pop-up exhibit this evening at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts (LACA).

The exhibit, which is free to the public, will be held in the art center’s main gallery from 6 to 9 p.m. — but only for tonight.

Pastel and other styles of paintings, photography, carpentry, ceramic pottery and more are expected to be featured.

The Kalamazoo-based artists include photographer Zachary Elmblad, woodworker Gerry Hess, ceramist Bob Morris and painters Cathy Germay, Ellen Nelson and Anna Barnhart. Most of the artists will also be present during the exhibit to talk about their artwork, said LACA Director Andy Skinner.

“They’re all very talented. ... Not that we don’t have good artists here, but it’s nice to bring artists from outside the area to be more involved with our art center and also to display their work to our membership and the community as well,” Skinner said, adding, “I believe all of the work will be for sale.”

This is the first time the Alliance of Kalamazoo Artists are holding an exhibit at LACA, Skinner said. The artwork for the pop-up exhibit will be displayed on temporary walls set up in the center of the main gallery. He said some of the artwork will be non-traditional formats.

“I’m interested in non-traditional art. So for these artists, I’m excited to see their finished work — I’ve seen them online — but to see them in-person,” he said.

The paintings currently displayed on the walls of the gallery — an exhibit titled “The Value of Perspective” by Justin David Gustafson — will remain up during the pop-up event as well. “The Value of Perspective” will be on display through Aug. 31.

Skinner said LACA used to host quite a few pop-up shows during times leading up to month-long exhibits, but the art center hasn’t for awhile. Pop-up exhibits showcase new artists while also bringing attention to other featured exhibits at LACA, Skinner said.

“It’s kind of an interesting way of getting people in the building,” he said.

Gustafson was instrumental in building connections between LACA and the Alliance of Kalamazoo Artists to hold the pop-up exhibit, Skinner said.

Skinner said this event is strengthening bridges between LACA and the Alliance of Kalamazoo Artists, and it could be a stepping stone toward Ludington-area artists being featured in the Kalamazoo art scene.

“Hopefully, next summer we’ll have a group of our artists that can go down there and show some stuff,” Skinner said.

He thinks LACA artists will be able to exhibit their artwork in Kalamazoo late next summer, although he doesn’t know which gallery their exhibit would be at.

The free pop-up exhibit will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at LACA, 107 S. Harrison St. in Ludington. Drinks and light refreshments will be available.

Michigan waives off-road vehicle trail fees this weekend

Michigan waives off-road vehicle trail fees this weekend

LANSING — Off-road vehicle enthusiasts can explore Michigan’s 3,700 miles of trails and five “scramble” areas that are open to them for no charge this weekend.

All rules pertaining to ORVs still apply. But riders on designated routes and trails will not need an ORV license or trail permit Saturday and Sunday.

Ron Olson of the Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division says it’s the perfect opportunity to get a look at Michigan’s off-road riding areas.

A Recreation Passport is required where applicable, such as the scramble areas.

They include the St. Helen’s Motorsport Area in Roscommon County; the Black Lake Scramble Area in Cheboygan County; Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County; Bull Gap in Oscoda County and The Mounds in Genesee County.

Thunder in the Creek takes place on Saturday

Thunder in the Creek is a day-long benefit for disabled veterans full of festivities, good times, and food. The event will take place at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at Ruby Creek.

The day includes live music, an all-terrain vehicle trail run, a pig roast and 200 pounds of chicken, and fireworks at dusk to end the night.

The 13th annual Thunder in the Creek aims to show appreciation for veterans who have given their lives and limbs during service. The event raises money for the Ruby Creek Disabled Veteran’s Hunt Club to take veterans on different events throughout the year.

Jill Weaver, who helps coordinate the event, said that 20 to 40 veterans from the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans attend each year, along with their nurses and caretakers so that they can be comfortable and taken care of as much as possible.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser to raise money for the veterans,” Weaver said.

To participate in the day-long event is a $10 donation. Weaver said 100 percent of the profits go back to helping the veterans. The entire event is organized and hosted by volunteers.

“The volunteers deserve a big thank you for making it possible to host this event,” Weaver said. “There are a lot of people in the community who volunteer and we would be able to do this without them.”

The day starts with breakfast being served bright and early at the Ruby Creek Conservation and Recreation Club, followed by the veterans parade at noon.

“My favorite part is seeing all the veterans smile and have a good day,” Weaver said. “During the parade, they each get a bag of candy to throw out to the crowd and they wave. It just warms my heart seeing them enjoy being out, the camaraderie, and new people to talk to.”

Live music will be provided by Todd Dunham and his band Northbound.

Dinner will be hosted at 6 p.m. which includes a pig roast, 200 pounds of chicken and several sides. There will be a raffle, a rubber duck race, and finally for the grand finale to wrap up the night, fireworks at dusk.