Grand Rapids

12.22.14:  Grand Rapids to reimagine Grand River floodwalls

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Grand Rapids is reimagining its flood protection system along the Grand River after years of resistance to calls by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to boost floodwalls.

 

The city is studying 16 sites along the river where it might build multi-purpose floodwalls that double as public access points. The plans come amid efforts to restore rapids to the Grand River and improve recreation.

 

The idea could replace some traditional concrete floodwalls with a stepped embankment that people could go up and down to launch a kayak or visit the river when water levels are low. When the river floods, water would rise and submerge the steps.

Engineers working with Grand Rapids, call it a “flood protection system,” not floodwalls. He says the city has “an opportunity to do it right” as it looks at what’s needed along the river.

 

The river came close to breaching the flood walls in April 2013. Water flowed in torrents, causing millions of dollars in damage throughout Kent County and causing flooding that forced hundreds of area residents to leave their homes for higher ground.

 

Since then, Grand Rapids and FEMA have come to terms on a compromise that won’t require the walls to go 3 feet above the 100-year flood level. A draft report on what exactly Grand Rapids needs to do to get its walls certified is expected to come from FEMA later this month.

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12.18.14:   Michigan teen shot near high school

 

WYOMING, Mich. (AP) — Police are searching for whoever shot a Grand Rapids-area high school student in the leg as he left basketball practice.

Superintendent Dave Britten says the Godfrey-Lee High School student was shot Wednesday night as he was leaving the Wyoming school. The teen and three other varsity basketball players heard multiple gunshots and ran back into the school. The victim realized in the gym that he had been shot in the leg.

Officers set up a perimeter around the school and searched the area with a police dog. School officials are reviewing security camera footage.

Britten says the victim was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive.

Britten says the basketball players aren’t kids who get into trouble.


12.17.14:  Grand Rapids giving police body cameras a look

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A pilot project is being discussed in Grand Rapids that could include the use of body cameras as part of a broader effort to improve police relations with the public.

Most city leaders say they support giving body cameras a try and many residents at a Tuesday hearing reiterated their desire to see that happen.

Other changes called for at the hearing include a racial profiling study, psychological testing to determine any underlying racial bias that police officers may have, a task force to study how to improve public attitudes toward police and targeted recruitment of black police officers.

Andy Bingel, president of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, says they’re not opposed to the cameras, but they worry about the cost. Roughly $1 million could be spent on cameras and Bingel says that same money could add eight to 10 officers to the department.

President Barack Obama has promoted the use of body cameras by police in the wake of the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

 


12.16.14:  Former G.R. Clerk files 1 Billion dollar lawsuit

 

(Mlive) – Lauri Parks, fired from her job as Grand Rapids city clerk in 2013, has filed a $1 billion job discrimination lawsuit against the city, according to a document filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

A docket for the civil case shows Parks is suing Mayor George Heartwell and the city in federal court. Further information about the case has not been filed.

Parks, who was appointed to the job in 2008, was fired in October 2013 after city commissioners voted in a special meeting performance review not to renew her contract and to place her on paid administrative leave for three months. They said Parks’ dismissal was prompted by negative feedback about her job performance and that she failed to make improvements in teamwork, judgment and leadership.

She was offered the option to resign with six months’ pay or take another city job. Parks left during the closed-session performance review.

Black community members stood behind Parks and expressed outrage and disappointment at the City Commission’s decision.

An attorney for Parks alleged discrimination and said there was no basis for the firing.

Heartwell told the city’s Community Relations Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, that “at no time was Ms. Parks’ race or gender a factor in the commission’s decision.”

Parks is the granddaughter of Grand Rapids’ first African-American mayor, the late Rev. Lyman S. Parks.


12.12.14:  A robbery sends Calvin College into Lockdown mode

 

The Calvin College campus went into lockdown overnight after a robbery took place in the area.

The robbery was reported just before midnight near the intersection of East Beltline and Burton Street.

Police suggested the college be placed on lockdown and that students seek an area of safety inside and wait.

The all clear message was issued just before 2 a.m. after police tracked the robbery suspect across campus.


12.12.14:  Ballet company teams with ‘Polar Express’ creator

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The Grand Rapids Ballet is unveiling a new production of “The Nutcracker” that’s co-designed by Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book “The Polar Express.”

A private performance Thursday to benefit the Grand Rapids Ballet and Hospice of Michigan raised $500,000, with $250,000 going to the ballet company and $250,000 going toward the Pediatric Hospice Program.

Grand Rapids Ballet executive director Glenn Del Vecchio says the ballet company and Hospice of Michigan are “here to improve the quality of life in West Michigan” in their own ways.

The Wege Foundation also offered a $20,000 challenge grant, promising to match donations and pledges resulting from Thursday’s event. By the end of the night, organizers reported raising a total of $51,000 with the challenge grant. The first public performance is Friday night.

Grand Rapids Ballet, in preparation for the production’s premiere, mounted a $2.5 million fundraising campaign called “Stepping Forward” to retire long-term debts and build up a cash reserve as well as to fund the show. Performances are planned through Dec. 21.

“The Nutcracker” is choreographed by Val Caniparoli and co-designed by Van Allsburg and award-winning designer Eugene Lee. Caniparoli has created two previous productions of “The Nutcracker,” for the Cincinnati Ballet in 2001 and for the Louisville Ballet in 2009.

Van Allsburg grew up in Grand Rapids and “The Polar Express” movie was based on his book. The production of “The Nutcracker” could travel in coming years.

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12.11.14:  Law enforcement dog named for K9 killed in 1999

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A new law enforcement dog in western Michigan is named for a Lansing police K9 that was fatally shot following a foot pursuit of an armed suspect in 1999.

The Kent County sheriff’s department says Sabre is a 2-year old German shepherd from the Netherlands that joined the department in July. Deputy Dan Alderink describes Sabre to The Grand Rapids Press as “very energetic” with “an absolutely great demeanor.”

An event held Wednesday afternoon at the sheriff’s department introduced the dog. Sabre was purchased due to the anticipated retirement of another police dog, Joe.

 

The Lansing Police Department’s dog named Sabre died following a shootout with officers that also killed an 18-year-old man.

 


12.10.14:  Downtown Market hosts Holiday Open House tonight

 

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is hosting a winter Wonderland holiday open house December 10th, from 4-8 p.m.

 

The event will feature an extra hour of Market shopping, holiday cooking demos, cookie decorating, and a coat drive.

 

The Market continues to be a destination for local food innovation, education and experimentation.  There are many in the area that have still not visited the new market and today might be a good time to check it out and get involved in the special activities.

 

In support of Guiding Light Mission, the DowntownMmarket is also hosting a collection site for clean, gently used coats, gloves, hats and new boots from December 10 – January 1.  All donations will help residents at the mission in need of warm clothing.

 

Click here for more information.

 


12.10.14:  Practice grenades found in veterans home donations

 

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Police say five live practice grenades were left among donations to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The  staff called police on Tuesday after finding the practice grenades at the home’s donation center. No one was injured.

Police say it was determined that the practice grenades likely were left by mistake. They were removed by the police bomb squad.

 


12.9.14:  Bible Verse on Sign removed from Hager Park

 

(MLive)- A civil rights group has succeeded in getting a sign that displayed biblical scripture removed from Hager Park in Jenison, Advance Newspapers reported.

The sign, erected in the 1960s by the Ottawa County Road Commission, displayed a verse from the Bible, Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” The Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists, which is also calling for the removal of the cross and nativity scene on Dewey Hill in Grand Haven, sent a letter of complaint to Ottawa County on behalf of two county residents who complained about the sign.

The complaint sought immediate removal of the sign, stating, “This biblical passage, from the Old Testament,  serves no secular purpose, endorses and promotes Judeo-Christianity over other religions, and demonstrates excessive government engagement with religion. The sign violates the constitutional rights of Ottawa County residents and other taxpayers and park users who do not subscribe to the Judeo-Christian faith.”

County staff maintained the sign “that was probably nearing the end of its life,” Jon Scholtz, Ottawa County Parks director, told Advance Newspapers. He said the majority of the Parks Commission recommended to remove the sign.