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My Town: Emergency funding to bring pothole relief to drivers

My Town: Emergency funding to bring pothole relief to drivers

KENT COUNTY, Mich.— State lawmakers are coming to the rescue of drivers trying to dodge a plethora of potholes this year.

The legislature Wednesday approved $215 million in emergency road funding,  including $115 million for priority projects and $100 million to assist with maintainence needed due to the harsh winter.    

“The additional funding is much needed to combat the brutal winter we experienced this year and to start to reverse the toll it took on Michigan’s roadways,” said Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker.  “The investment in local roads will help to limit the expenses associated with car repairs due to poor road conditions.”

The emergency funding includes nearly $1.9 million to maintain and fix Kent County’s roads.  That includes more than $235,000 for the following communities:

Sparta council to consider stricter snow-clearing rules

Sparta council to consider stricter snow-clearing rules

SPARTA, Mich.—   People living in Sparta may soon have less time to clear the snow from their sidewalks and nearby hydrants.

On Monday, Jan. 13, the village council will review a proposed ordinance amendment changing the way residents are notified to clear snow.  Village Manager Martin Super says under the current ordinance, ticketing a resident for failing to remove snow from nearby sidewalks can take up to a month.  Under the proposed amendment, the entire process would take four to five days.

Super says the changes include allowing the village to mail a warning to residents to clean up the snow.  Property owners would then have 48 hours to clean up the sidewalks and any nearby hydrants.  If they fail to do so, they could get a citation. The amendment also empowers the fire department to give notices and write up citations for snow-covered sidewalks and hydrants.

When there's snow, make snow cones!

When there's snow, make snow cones!

SPARTA, Mich.-- Sparta-based Old Orchard Juice is bringing back one of its favorite videos for the season.

A post on the company's Facebook page states, "We've been accumulating lots of snow here in West Michigan! If you have snow in your area, here's a delicious way to deal with it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSZacAfbaf8."

The video shows a family turning their snow into snow cones, with the help of Old Orchard Juice.

Orchard donates plentiful apple crop to local food pantries

Orchard donates plentiful apple crop to local food pantries

SPARTA, Mich.—Riveridge Producer Marketing, Inc. will welcome volunteers from Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank this weekend to pick apples for hungry families.

The company, which represents 100 family-run apple orchards and managers 700 of its own acres, has provided apples to pantries statewide since 1998; however this will be the first year Feeding American West Michigan has gathered fruit from Riveridge’s trees directly.

“Being good neighbors is really important to Riveridge,” said company president Don Armock. “Meeting our neighbors’ hunger needs is near and dear to the hearts of Riveridge as a company.”

Agricultural leaders are expecting a historic apple crop in Michigan this year, with a 30 million bushel yield.  That’s 10 fold last year’s frost-stunted harvest.  It’s been such a good year that many growers may not be able to pick the entire crop before the frost takes over.  That’s where Feeding America West Michigan comes in.

Apples- from bust to boon

Apples- from bust to boon

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Michigan State University) --- This year’s Michigan apple crop runneth over.

 Last year’s crop was decimated by late frosts, and the feeble harvest yielded a mere 2.7 million bushels for growers. This year, however, is shaping up to be a record year, projected to top 30 million bushels.

“This year is a limb-busting crop; some of our branches are so full with apples that they snap with a little help from the wind,” said Adam Dietrich, Michigan State University graduate and grower at Leo Dietrich and Sons, based in Conklin, Mich. “A single tree from 2013 is producing more than an 8-acre block of trees did in 2012.”

The overabundance of apples is welcomed, but it presents its own set of challenges.

Funding deadline nears for communities impacted by flooding

Funding deadline nears for communities impacted by flooding

Communities impacted by the floods in April have less than a week to file their request for federal disaster money. 

In June, President Obama declared a major disaster in 16 Michigan counties, including Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon and Newaygo. The Small Business Association also issued a disaster declaration this summer.  Both declarations freed up federal assistance for homeowners, local governments and certain non-profits who were forced to clean up.  Homeowners and businesses had until Monday, August 12 to apply for assistance; city officials have until August 17.

The flooding caused $10 million in damage in Kent County alone.  Federal funding would help pay for debris removal and repairs to public property, roads and bridges.

Heat takes a toll on Sparta Town & Country Days

Heat takes a toll on Sparta Town & Country Days

SPARTA, Mich.—The board director of Sparta Town & Country Days says this year was a success, but the intense heat wave that swept through West Michigan took a toll on turnout.

Kristi Caine estimates 10,000 people took part in Sparta Town & Country Days, down from about 14,000 visitors last year.  In her 12 years as board director, Caine says this is the hottest festival she’s ever experienced.  She says when the heat broke Saturday, the crowds grew.

Volunteers with Sparta Town & Country Days borrowed commercial fans from the Kent County Youth Fair, created misters and put up extra canopies to help keep visitors cool. Caine says authorities treated a couple of people for dehydration or overheating, but both are expected to be fine.

Caine plans to hold a wrap-up meeting about the festival within a few weeks.  Meanwhile the festival fireworks display, which was delayed because of predicted rain, will take place July 26 at 10:15 p.m.