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Parameters of potential housing study discussed in WSCC work session

VICTORY TWP. — The West Shore Community College Board of Trustees discussed some of the scenarios about which it needs more information on-campus housing Monday as a part of a work session following its regular meeting.

Some of the items discussed included demographics, services required and programs to be offered, the design and costs of housing and more.

West Shore had two previous studies done, one by Scion Group that was delivered in February 2019 and another by adjunct faculty member Wendy Grandwohl Wells. The Scion Group indicated that WSCC could support somewhere between 103 and 126 beds, and its study included potential floor plans for proposed dorms.

Gradwohl Wells surveyed 14 two-year institutions in six states, and her study was presented to the board in December 2019.

The college has the capital and property, but it’s the parameters that are worth a look. Demographics proved to be a big discussion item at the meeting. That discussion is figuring out exactly what the target respondents would be for housing.

“We have to decide, as a board, are we going to provide housing for a student that takes one class or does it have to be 12 credits or 15 — I don’t know what that (decision) is,” said Board Treasurer Jim Jensen. “There’s a little about demographics issues such as age… Are we going to have 18-year-old females with 40-year-old males? Also, we have a lot of students who are married — we don’t know how many. How do we address that? Are children going to be allowed to live in these dormitories?

“There’s all sorts of things like that need to be looked at.”

Board Chair Bruce Smith also emphasized that preliminary research is key.

“We’ve got to do as much as we can on those demographics so that we’re comfortable with the expenditure of funds,” Smith said. “I’d hate to put up a 105-bed unit and have 40 beds being used. It’s pretty expensive.”

Richard Wilson, the board’s vice chair, said he would like staff to look at various differences between providing apartments and dormitories.

“When it does come back to the board, we’ve got a decision to make other than, ‘Do we build 40 apartment units?’” Wilson said. “Is it 40 apartments versus 200 dorm rooms versus something else — and what those comparative costs would be.”

Members of the board, in the discussion, said the availability of housing for students based on their status as a full- or part-time should be policies that are researched for board consideration. Finding out which students currently fit the profile of a certain demographic in age plus student status.

WSCC President Scott Ward said what also needs to be considered is the students who decide to not attend the college because of a lack of housing.

“For example, in Baldwin, where they go free because of the Baldwin Promise, a large percentage would like to come here because we’re a good fit for them and we would have a (comfortable campus). We usually capture one to two students per year,” Ward said. “I realize they don’t have a large graduating class … we could see our capture rate from one to two students from Baldwin up to about six students.

“I’m not advocating that … this is why we should build housing,” he said later after outlining students from Wexford County that earn credits. “I do think as we are going through the feasibility, the market is bigger. Let’s not just look at our current students.”

Jensen asked Ward about housing offsetting transportation issues the school has, and Ward concurred it is a factor.

Part of the discussion centered on the economy of the scale of possible housing, and whether or not the cost of maintenance, security and other amenities for live-in students would offset the funds raised from those living at the college.

Trustee Jim Barker said he would like issues regarding ownership — like whether the apartments would be owned by the WSCC, or owned by another entity and rented by the college — to be addressed as part of the scenarios.

“I think maybe we should ask if anybody is interested to do that, and if no one is, it might tell us whether or not we should do it,” Barker said. “If no one wants to partner with us, then maybe it’s not a good idea for us.”

Trustee Randy Tomaszewski said the study by Grandwohl Wells was helpful, and he reminded the board to keep in mind about what is being done by neighboring colleges such as Baker College’s campus in Muskegon and Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

“We need to pay attention to our competitive environment,” he said. “I’m not necessarily saying we should be the leader, but we should be close to that or more on the front edge of that where we can.”

Dr. Anthony Fabaz noted that Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac could be a template WSCC uses for housing. Fabaz said it would be wise to contact the college to find out what it did not just in terms of construction, but also administration.

“They’ve got about 2,000 students, and … they went through all of this,” he said. “Instead of creating a lot of work for this community, maybe just one call (will help) … They’ve been very positive on the benefits … but they’ve got the history, they’ve got the template and they’re willing to share it.”

Smith would like to know the reasons other institutions proceeded with housing, the problems associated with making it happen and whether the needs of the school were met in those instances.

“Anything we learn from other colleges’ experiences, the better off we are in avoiding some of those pitfalls,” he said.

Barker voiced another concern with respect to housing in relation to the trends in education. He questioned the wisdom of housing in light of how more and more is being done via online access.

“There’s a lot of large colleges, prestigious colleges and universities, who are doing away with on-campus (master’s degree programs in business administration). Who would have thought, 5 to 10 years ago, that you’re not going to so-and-so university to get your MBA? You’re still getting your MBA, but it’s all online now,” Barker said. “I certainly can’t predict it … I don’t know if there’s a study out there telling you not to build housing at (a certain) college level. Is it different for a university than a community college?”

College staff will be bringing an outline of the various requests for information to the board at a later date. Ward said the final completion of a full report on the various scenarios could take several months.

Grower meeting focuses on pests, invasive species

AMBER TWP. — Local growers heard agriculture-related best practices and procedures during the annual conservation district grower educational meeting Wednesday at Mason County Reformed Church.

The event was hosted by the Oceana, Mason-Lake and Manistee conservation districts to inform and gather local growers about a variety of ways to continue their work, but in a environmentally friendly way.

The conservation districts’ Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) held a panel during the meeting to discuss farmers’ involvement in the program.

MAEAP is free for growers and requires them to pass a series of assessments. The audits are similar to ones required by the state.

“It held me accountable,” said Tom Grabowski, a grower who lives in Mason County, on the panel.

The assessments range from pesticide storage to irrigation and water use.

Deer and Agriculture

During the lunch portion of the event, Vern Richardson from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, based out of Cadillac, shared information about deer in the area.

The primary concern for the audience was the increased deer population.

“There are fewer hunters than there were 10 years ago, but hunter success is high,” Richardson said.

The harvesting statistics from the 2019 hunting season were not available, but based on checking station reports, Richardson said the numbers are likely similar to the year before.

He explained that Baby Boomers constitute a large portion of hunters, but, as that generation is no longer hunting, there are fewer hunters to fill tags.

If growers are experiencing crop damage during the off-season, they can apply for a permit from the DNR to manage deer on private property. The growers must display a need for the permit, Richardson said.

When Richardson took questions after his presentation, growers asked about how the antler restrictions have impacted the number of deer harvested. He said the statistics are not available to show if fewer deer are being harvested because of the restrictions.

That trend may become clear in a few years, he said.

Growers also questioned how baiting impacts the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

“Concentrated deer populations are more likely to pass on the disease, and bait congregates deer,” Richardson explained.

No cases of CWD have been reported in Mason County, or surrounding counties, and baiting is still illegal in Michigan.

Pesticide drift

Scott King, an inspector from Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, presented on pesticide drift management.

After reminding growers about work protection standards and respirator regulations, King showcased several real-drift complaints to explain how and why his department investigates complaints.

For each complaint about pesticide misconduct, investigators look into the complain in-person and on-site.

Before the investigators arrive, they can pull aerial views of the area to see property lines and different crops. Once on-site, they visually examine the location, crops and surrounding vegetation and take samples which are tested in labs.

The investigators also talk to the person who submitted the complaint, the grower who used the pesticide and will take additional testimonies, if available.

Investigators also take into account weather conditions, typically pulling information from nearby weather stations.

The results from the investigation can lead to monetary fines or written citations, depending on physical evidence of pesticide drift and if that drift came from a specific field.

Invasive species

Vicki Sawicki, from the North County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas, discussed the invasive species currently impacting growers.

On the list were Autumn Olive, Tree-of-Heaven, Phragmites, Japanese Knotweed, Wild Parsnip, Leafy Spurge and Cypress Spurge.

Dave Jones, from the Michigan State University Extension in Hart, gave a presentation on the spotted lantern fly. The insect, which is a leaf-hopper rather than a fly or moth, has not been found in Michigan, but is an example of how invasive species can spread.

Jones said he is frequently asked why there are so many invasive species.

“These bugs are finding their favorite foods, but without the benefit of their natural predators,” he explained. “In this globalized economy, species travel.”

Some plants and fruit trees that are considered a part of Michigan agriculture, such as tart cherry trees, came from Eurasia.

Preventing an invasive species, such as the spotted lantern fly, from damaging forests and crops requires cooperation from people, Jones said.

Homeschool groups to address public Jan. 27


groups to address public Jan. 27

In honor of National School Choice Week, two Ludington area homeschool groups are inviting the public to come learn about homeschooling in Michigan.

Current homeschoolers will be present, the benefits and options of homeschooling will be presented and there will be an opportunity to have questions about homeschooling answered.

Monday, Jan. 27, 6:30 to 7:30 pm, in the Rotary Room at the Ludington Library. The event is hosted by Mason County Christian Home Educators and GLO Homeschool Co-op.

Sixth annual BrrrewFest is Saturday at Rotary Park

With temperatures expected to be in the mid-30s for the coming weekend, the forecast for Ludington’s first major entertainment event of the year — and the decade — is looking good, according to organizers.

The sixth annual Pure Ludington BrrrewFest craft beer and live music festival, which is sponsored by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Rotary Park, where more than 1,000 people are expected to take in the tastes and sounds of Ludington.

The event is a craft beverage festival, featuring beer, wine, cider and mead from a host of local and out-of-town breweries, but it’s also a fundraiser for the Friends of the Ludington State Park (FLSP), which works to raise funds and donate time and energy to various projects at the park.

Brandy Miller, president and CEO of the chamber, said BrrrewFest has been an effective and productive fundraiser for the FLSP group, bringing in tens of thousands since the event’s inception.

“We’ve raised more than $10,000 (in a year),” Miller told the Daily News. “Depending on expenses and ticket turnout, we’ve been anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. I think more than $30,000 over the last five years has been donated to (the FLSP group). It’s been a great fundraiser and a great partnership.”

Jen Tooman, marketing and communications director for the Downtown Ludington Board — an entity that works to support events in the city’s Downtown Development Authority district — is a member of the organizing committee for BrrrewFest. Tooman told the Daily News that the FLSP group is selected as a beneficiary because of the work the group does to benefit the state park and the community.

“They do a lot at the park, including the (summer) music series and a lot of volunteer projects, and we appreciate what they do,” Tooman said.

In addition to the cause, BrrrewFest also offers a large selection of things for attendees to enjoy, according to Tooman.

“From the downtown angle, we have four businesses participating, selling things other than beer,” Tooman said. “Gordy’s will be there selling apparel, Red Door Gallery will be there with clay pit mugs — and they’ve also done the trophy for the brewery that collects the most tokens — Red Rooster Coffee & Community will be selling coffee and House of Flavors will have hot-tots, so there will be something warm to eat.”

Additionally, this year’s festival boasts a single 200-foot-long tent for guests to gather and stay warm in. During previous years, BrrrewFest has been split between multiple heated tents, but Tooman said the larger space will help keep everyone warm.

“I always tell people not to let the winter temperatures scare you away,” Tooman said. “Just dress like you’re going skiing … The tent is heated, and we’ll have heaters outside as well.”

Miller added, “We’re happy to have everything in one large tent... It will keep everybody and everything warmer.”

BrrrewFest tends to draw about 1,000 people each year, according to Tooman — more with volunteers and participating brewers included. She added that the event has seen steady attendance increases from year to year, too.

“It’s grown every year, so I’m sure it will be bigger this year,” Tooman said.

Tooman said sponsors in the community have had a hand in making BrrrewFest a success.

“The great thing is we have a lot of sponsors this year who have stepped up to help cover the cost of (the event),” Tooman said. “That means more money can go to the Friends of the Ludington State Park.”

With live music from Mike Lenich starting at 1:45 p.m., and a set from the band White Rabbit to follow — as well as the annual Boozy Breakfast at Barley & Rye from 9 a.m. to noon just before the event begins — Tooman said there’s something for everyone.

“We have beer, wine, mead, cider — just a variety of things available,” she said. “You don’t have to drink. Just come out and have a good time.”

Miller said organizers are optimistic about the weather, the turnout and the amount of funds Saturday’s event will raise, and encourages everyone to participate.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a nice day — in the mid-30s,” she said. “It’s just an opportunity to come out, have a good time and contribute to a great cause. It’s a great way to kind of shake off the winter doldrums.”

The crafters

For its sixth year, BrrrewFest will bring together 25 brewers from throughout the state, including local favorites Ludington Bay Brewing Co., Jamesport Brewing Co., Love Wines and Starving Artist Brewing, with Ludington Bay sponsoring the entertainment tent’s VIP section.

Also in attendance will be out-of-town breweries, wineries, and cider and mead crafters including Founders Brewing Co., Great Mead Hall and Brewing Co., Haymarket Brewing, Middle Coast Brewing Co., Mountain Town Brewing Co., North Channel Brewing Co., Paw Paw Brewing, Perrin Brewing Co., Virtue Cider, St. Ambrose Cellars, Stormcloud Brewing Co. and more.

Tickets and more

Tickets are available through the end of the day today for $30 online at www,MyNorthTickets.com. Entry includes six drink tokens and a 5-ounce commemorative tasting glass.

While in town for BrrrewFest, visitors are encouraged to participate in other activities, including snowshoeing at Ludington State Park and fat-tire bicycling at Cartier Park the the Ludington Area Schools Forest. For more information about those activities, visit www.pureludington.com.

Get involved

Tooman said volunteers are still needed to help at the gate and with ticket sales.

For information about how to volunteer, find Pure Ludington BrrrewFest on Facebook, or visit the Downtown Ludington Facebook page and look for events and volunteering opportunities.