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Rivers ACE holds ribbon cutting ceremony

The White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed Rivers ACE of Whitehall to the community Friday, July 30 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The store’s grand opening was Friday and Saturday.

White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amy VanLoon came out to support the business, providing the scissors for the ceremony.

She shared her excitement about this business. She also pointed out that the store is in a great location, which is right off the highway on Colby Road.

Owners Emily Johnson, Jerod Johnson and John Dahl all stood at the entrance of the store for the ribbon cutting. Emily spoke before cutting the ribbon, stating that the team had wanted to open a store in Whitehall for a long time. She was excited that they finally had the opportunity.

Emily and Jerod also own Rothbury Hardware and Oceana Builders Supply, which are transitioning into ACE Hardware stores. Emily is also a co-owner with John and brother Gered Dahl at Tri-County Feeds.

On Saturday, as part of the grand opening, the team at Rivers ACE hosted a grill out using their own grills sold in stores. During this, there was also a bouncy house and dunk tank from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. From noon to 4 p.m. there were also demonstrations performed by representatives from Dewalt, Milwaukee and EGO for customers to get a feel for some of the products ACE has to offer. All of these companies sell power tools.

According to Emily, the business has been doing well since the soft opening in May. She said that they get new applications for employees quite frequently, and that their product selection has grown.

Splash pad to dip into TIFA fund

WHITEHALL — The city’s plans to add a splash pad to Goodrich Park will move forward after a decision was made at the July 27 Whitehall City Council meeting.

The assembly and construction, which was originally proposed to be completed through donations and volunteer work alone, will dip into the city’s TIFA budget.

The council was presented with Resolution 21-18, which called to move the project forward after a struggle from city staff and council to find the remaining donations. The total cost of this project is $132,330, and the proposed donations have reached $110,964.

The remaining balance is $21,366, and Resolution 21-18 called to take the money from the city’s general fund, before an amendment was passed to pull from the Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) budget.

Because the project was originally proposed to be completed through donations and volunteer work, some council members felt that it was unfair to move the project forward with city money, which is directly linked to the residents’ tax payments.

Council member Scott Brown said that he felt like the council was “lying to the taxpayers,” during the discussion period before the vote. Another member, Richard Connell, agreed with Brown. Connell also noted that he, as well as other members of the board, were not a part of the council when the splash pad was originally proposed.

It was Brown who had the idea to amend Resolution 21-18,taking the money from the TIFA fund, rather than the general fund. All seven members of the council voted yes to amend Resolution 21-18 in this way. After the amendment was made, the council passed this resolution, which will take $25,000 from the TIFA fund, rather than the general fund.

TIFA is a part of a tax capture that collects a portion of property taxes from a certain part of the city. TIFA has a separate board, and the money in its budget is set aside for improvements in the district.

The downtown of Whitehall is a part of TIFA’s area. In fact, the new updates in the North Mears parking lot were also funded by TIFA, according to Mayor Debi Hillebrand.

It was important to some members of the council that this project move forward, and there was an air of pressure to either move forward, or cancel the project for the time, as the city was already a few days into its fiscal year.

Council member Steven Salter cited page 119 of the city’s master plan, which states: “This vision is to build upon the city’s existing assets and make the most of opportunities that can attract new development and residents to the community while protecting the city’s natural beauty and resources. The goals and objectives of this plan should be reviewed often and considered in decision making by the city.” Salter used this to show support in moving forward with the project.

According to city Manager Scott Huebler, if the resolution did not pass, the project would need to be halted for another year. Also, the funds that were already raised would likely go away, and the council would have to approve the splash pad as a regular construction project. Huebler also noted that the project manager and contractors could leave the project behind as well.

Many of the donors have had their money on the line for over a year, and a fear of them backing out after not seeing progress in the project loomed over some council members. The splash equipment itself had already been purchased.

The city received donations and grants of $10,000 from the Community Fund Grant, $35,000 from private donations, $50,000 from the Arconic Foundation Grant, a $5,664 donation from the Montague-Whitehall Rotary, and a $10,300 donation from White Lake Wanderland.

During the discussion, council member Sean Mullally asked Huebler if the fundraising aspect of this project was done. Huebler then explained that fundraising can continue, but that the project needed to move forward or not. Many council members agreed to make the best efforts to continue to seek donations to pay the TIFA fund back.

Delta variant cases of COVID-19 detected in Muskegon County

MUSKEGON – Cases of the COVID-19 variant B.1.617.2 (Delta) has been detected in Muskegon County. Variant identification is learned after initial COVID -19 diagnosis when further testing of the specimen has been performed.

When a positive result is found, a small percentage of these samples are sent on for genetic sequencing to identify any variant strains. Therefore, it is very likely there are more unidentified cases of the Delta variant in Muskegon County.

“Because of increase laboratory surveillance to detect the variant, health officials expected to eventually find a case in Muskegon County,” explained Kathy Moore, health officer and director of Public Health – Muskegon County. “It’s important for our community to know that this variant is circulating here, and it spreads more easily and quickly which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.”

Public Health – Muskegon County is urging residents to continue to take precautions against COVID-19, especially as new variants of the virus become more prevalent. Precautions include vaccination, staying home when you are ill, hand hygiene, physical distancing, use of masks in crowded spaces if you are unvaccinated, and getting tested if you have symptoms.

Any Muskegon County resident who has possibly been exposed to an individual infected with COVID-19 should get tested for the virus. Visit maskupmuskegon.org/gettested to find the nearest local testing site.

3 townships to have ballot requests Aug. 3

Three Muskegon townships will have ballot request on the Aug. 3 election.

Egelston Township will ask voters if they want to support adoption of an ordinance allowing two adult use marijuana retail establishments, two adult use grow establishments and two adult use processing establishments within the township.

Fruitport Charter Township will have two millage requests on its ballot. The first is a renewal of 1.5 mills public safety levy for five years, which is expected to generate $828,718 in the first year. Property owners with a $50,000 taxable value would pay $75 in the first year. The second is a 1 mill police department millage renewal request for five years. The levy is expected to generate $552,478 in the first year. Property owners with a $50,000 taxable value would pay $50 in the first year.

Holton Township will seek a 2 mill fire protection renewal for 10 years. Property owners with a $50,000 taxable value would pay $100 in the first year.

Public comment sought at transportation committee meeting

The Muskegon and Northern Ottawa County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is responsible for transportation planning in the area, seeks public comment on the transportation planning process.

The planning process includes the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the Fiscal Year 2020 – 2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Program of Projects (POP), and other agenda items.

The TIP is developed in a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local officials and serves as the final link in the transportation planning process. Its primary purpose is to identify transportation programs and projects to be funded with federal aid in accordance with federal law and regulations. This plan is an outline of the transportation needs of Muskegon County and Northern Ottawa County for the next four years. The LRTP is a look at the MPO’s future transportation network and is to be used as a guideline for transportation investment. The FTA POP includes 5307 and 5308 funds for the Muskegon Area Transit System and Harbor Transit. Recommendations for new construction, safety improvements, congestion (traffic) management, air quality, non-motorized, transit, planning, etc. will be accepted.

A public comment period is scheduled at the Technical Committee Meeting Aug. 5, at 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be at the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission office, 316 Morris Ave., Suite 340, Muskegon. Meeting materials will be available on the event calendar at www.wmsrdc.org.

For more information or to view a hard copy of the meeting materials, contact Joel Fitzpatrick, transportation planning director, WMSRDC, 316 Morris Ave. Suite 340, P.O. Box 387, Muskegon, 49443-0387, 231-722-7878 ext. 160, or by e-mail at jfitzpatrick@wmsrdc.org.