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Light snow this morning, tapering to a few snow showers this afternoon. Temps nearly steady in the mid 30s. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 80%..
Variable clouds with snow showers. Low 31F. Winds light and variable. Chance of snow 40%.
Updated: January 5, 2023 @ 12:20 pm

Millage request for new jail defeated
Throughout the first eight months of the year, a proposal for a new county jail was in the Herald-Journal headlines.
The idea first surfaced in February after the county received a report on improving high energy inefficiencies. Three Oceana County-owned buildings were looked at for ventilation and lighting, and these included the county building, county services building and the sheriff’s office. After hearing the report, former county Administrator Bob Sobie pitched the idea that instead of retrofitting the current jail at an estimated cost of $4 million that a new jail be built.
The county board of commissioners then asked Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast to contact other sheriff’s offices undergoing new jail projects to get ideas on costs. Mast came back to the board in March and the board authorized him to have a feasibility study for a new jail.
In May, the county board hosted a special meeting where proposed jail costs and millage levies were presented.
The consultants noted they normally base projections on 10 years worth of data, but in this case they could only use five years worth of data. Based on the five year data, they said the county would likely need 72.5 to 80 beds and that the current 66-bed facility has been full most of that time. It was suggested that a Hart City-owned site south of Polk Road could be used as the location for a new jail with estimates ranging from $28 million to $33 million depending on the size of the jail and a millage rate of 2.5 mills was estimated. Later that month, the county board approved a millage request for a new jail for a new jail to be placed on the Aug. 2 primary ballot where it was ultimately defeated.
Helicopter ride application denied
A helicopter ride operation for the Silver Lake area drew lots of opposition from community members when it was proposed last spring. In late March, the Golden Township Planning Commission tabled a special use application from Gemini Resorts of Ludington to allow helicopter rides in the Silver Lake area. Close to 100 people filled the gym at the Golden Township Hall in Mears for a public hearing.
The application stated the rides would be staged on a parcel of land at the corner of 34th Avenue and Hazel Road (on the curve heading into downtown Silver Lake) and would be operated by Spencer Norris of Intrepid Helicopters located in Ottawa Lake, Mich. The rides would be offered on five major weekends throughout the summer.
In late April, the planning commission determined that the helicopter attraction did not meet site plan criteria and denied the application.
Crystal dam decision
What to do with the dam at the Crystal Township County Park, a repeated discussion throughout the year by the Oceana County Board of Commissioners.
The topic first surfaced in late 2011 when deputy Drain Commissioner John Warner explained the results of a recent dam inspection. Warner said at that time that the dam had sand washing out from under the spillway for at least five years, and the south spillway wall was beginning to crack. The last repairs to the spillway were made in 2011, and there was very little left of the repairs.
In February, board Chairman Bob Walker appointed an ad hoc committee to further explore information related to the dam so the board could make an informed decision on what to do with the dam, and in March the board authorized a feasibility study concerning removal or repairing the dam.
The study showed costs ranged from $250,000 to $300,000 to rehabilitate the existing dam to $800,000 to $1.3 million to replace it. The board voted in December to begin the removal process after June 30 if no funding can be found to repair or replace it.
Celebration takes place
for the return of area missionaries kidnapped in Haiti
Around 200 people gathered at the West Michigan Research Station on Oceana Drive in Hart Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022 to celebrate the return of the Noecker family to Oceana County.
On Oct. 16, 2021, six members of the family were abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang, outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti after visiting an orphanage during a missions trip. The patriarch of the family, Ray Noecker, stayed back at the missionary camp to write a sermon, and so was not with the other members of his family when they were taken. On Dec. 5, his wife, Cheryl, 48, and their youngest son, Shelden, 6, were released. Four of Ray and Cheryl’s other children, Cherilyn, 27, Courtney, 18, Brandyn, 15, and Kasondra, 14, made a daring middle-of-the-night escape and were found Dec. 16, 2021 after walking 10 miles by moonlight towards a mountain landmark through farmland and fierce briars.
The family returned to their Shelby home Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, and reunited with their Hart Dunkard Brethren congregation Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 at a New Year’s Eve gathering.
The Jan. 2 community dinner was originally planned as a fundraiser and continued prayer vigil for the hostages, but was turned into a gathering of praise and thanksgiving for their safe return.
2022 elections
There was no shortage of politics in the 2022 election cycle, as voters decided many issues.
In May, voters in the Village of Pentwater and Shelby Township rejected proposals for marijuana establishments, and voters in Newfield Township rejected a recall effort when four of the five township board members targeted in the recall retained their seats. Supervisor Joan David received 437 votes to challenger Nicholas Allen Maynard’s 186 votes. Clerk Nancy L. Conley received 458 votes to challenger Francine Grysen’s 165 votes. Current trustees Richard Roberson and John Clark received 380 and 411 votes, respectively and challengers David M. Herin and Scott Parks got 203 and 179 votes respectively. All challengers ran No Party Affiliation, while all current trustees ran for the Republican party, with the exception of Roberson, who ran as a Democrat.
In the August primary, most precincts did not report issues with voters, but county Clerk Amy Anderson noted that there were situations at Hart City Hall and Newfield Township. A valid candidate on the ballot at Hart City wanted to stay and watch the election, but legally cannot do so and was asked to leave. In Newfield Township, an officer from the sheriff’s department was dispatched there in response to an incident at the polls with a write-in candidate. Incumbent board of commissioners candidates fended off challenges, and road commission candidates Lloyd Gowell and Denis Koch won election to the road commission board. In October, District 4 county board of commissioner candidate Paul Erickson had his residency questioned, to which he responded he moved from Elbridge Township to Colfax Township so he would continue to qualify to serve on the county board of commissioners.
The county board of canvassers certified the general election results Nov. 15.
Walkerville PFAS town hall poses more questions than answers
In July, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) held a town hall at Walkerville Wesleyan Church to address the Eagle Ottawa Newaygo Farms project. The meeting, which was intended to provide information on findings of possible Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the area, grew heated with a crowd full of community members showing signs of frustration.
Representatives from EGLE as well as District Health Department #10 (DHD#10) took the podium to outline health risks from exposure to PFAS as well as identifying 25 water testing sites that had been tested for signs of PFAS. Outraged community members could be seen left and right as they wondered why their wells had not been tested. That frustration grew when members of EGLE stated that those interested in testing would need to purchase a $290 testing kit.
Though the meeting was intended to provide information, attendees were posed with more questions. EGLE made one thing clear, however, there was still plenty more research to be done in the Walkerville and Newaygo areas.
Electric Forest returns to Rothbury after 2-year absence
Over 45,000 people from all over the country turned out for the Electric Forest music festival in late June. That wasn’t new — the Forest is the area’s most popular and well-known summer festival. But after the 2020 and 2021 festivals were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s festival took on extra meaning.
“Forest is a place where people can feel accepted and free, and a sense of community is very important in times like these,” said attendee Korin Foss of Mount Pleasant. “We need to come together and relate to how we are similar; music is one of the few powerful things that can do that.”
Many popular electronic dance music (EDM) bands were part of the festivities, but this year especially, the music almost seemed beside the point. The Forest represented a chance for those who visit this area annually to return, congregate and enjoy each other’s company after two straight summer festivals were wiped out.
“Electric Forest 2022 was something that I will never forget. A lot of people think it’s just a festival with a bunch of lights and loud music, but it is much more than that,” said Cierra VanDyke of Whitehall, who attended the festival for the first time this year.

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