Lifes Lessons

October 17, 2003
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The walls will come tumbling down on Wednesday, but it won’t be your standard demolition.

Rockford Construction Co. and Bierlein Companies Inc., of Midland, are slated to begin the two-week-long demolition of the former Milner Hotel in the Cherry Street Landing area.

But Rockford’s JohnWheeler and MikeVanGessel also have found a way to make the work a learning experience. Approximately 50 fourth-graders from Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Shawnee Math and Science Tech Academy will be on hand to watch the beginning of the end for the 85-year-old structure.

The class field trip is part of their science, design and technology study that focuses on construction — specifically the use of cranes and problem solving related to the lifting of heavy objects.

Wheeler, VanGessel and Rockford, which now boasts more than 100 employees and does work in at least 10 states throughout the Midwest, long have been supporters of education and the Grand Rapids Public Schools. For the students, this should be much cooler than having someone come in and speak to their class.

  • On the artistic side, here’s another lesson. Or maybe it’s a better economics lesson.

PierreBittar, world-renowned French impressionist, will be in Holland this fall to paint images of West Michigan. With more than 50 years of pleinair painting experience Bittar has received countless awards including the Gold Medal at the Salon Des Artistes Francais in Paris in 1979.

What does that mean to businesspeople?

Well, run this through your calculators. Bittar has experienced an 800 percent increase in the price of his paintings during the last 15 years. He has had more than 40 one-man shows in France, England, Switzerland, New York, Chicago, Florida, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and soon to be Michigan.

In August Holland resident DavidDeJonge flew up to Harbor Springs for a meeting with Bittar. Throughout the course of the visit DeJonge convinced Bittar to paint the majestic scenery of West Michigan. The result of this meeting is a first ever visit by the artist to the Holland area, followed up with a private show of the paintings in the DeJonge Studio Gallery.

Bittar, who is best known for painting on canvas, will be painting the beautiful fall scenery of the West Michigan area this week. The work done by Bittar will be oil on canvas paintings of the Holland landscape and skyline, and other West Michigan hotspots.

Bittar will be visiting areas in Holland, Grand Haven, and downtown Grand Rapids. The paintings will be on display inside the DeJonge Studio Gallery located inside of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel during the month of December.

  • Here’s a lesson in geography, sort of.

Most everyone is aware of the parking crunch and traffic snarl at Grand Rapids Community College, right? Well, TomReges, former city planner, made a proposal to parking commissioners this month that he felt would help resolve the problems on the Hill.

Reges told commissioners to pressure GRCC to turn its practice football field on Lyon into a parking lot. The city would run the lot and approach the Hill stakeholders (VAI, Spectrum, GVSU, GRCC) about their interest in signing long-term parking leases. If the interest is there, then the city could build a ramp on the site with financial assistance from the stakeholders. In turn, GRCC could develop the old South High School football field, which Reges said was only developing weeds, into its practice field.

Parking Commission Chairman JackHoffman told Reges it was a good idea, but one that has already been rejected by the grumpy residents of Heritage Hill. Parking Commissioner KevinDenhoff, however, said the parking and traffic problems on the Hill could only be solved with a ramp. (Denhoff heads security at VAI.) Both Hoffman and Denhoff have been involved with that parking study.

  • Now for today’s science lesson. It wasn’t clear late last week whether top EPA officials would honor an invitation fromU.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, to explain why the agency pigheadedly persists in its plans to penalize West Michigan for air pollution drifting here from the Chicago-Milwaukee megalopolis.

Hoekstra’s hearing on the issue is scheduled for today at Holland City Hall. The Congressman summed up his own views by saying he supports the goal of improved air quality. “However, the EPA’s proposed rule will saddle West Michigan with unnecessary economic burdens,” he added, “while providing no tangible air quality benefit until it addresses pollution transported from industrial areas on the other side of Lake Michigan.”

The rule in question is known as an eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard.

In July, Hoekstra and the rest of Michigan’s Congressional delegation sent the EPA a letter “seeking further information about the potential for inflexible implementation requirements that could pose a serious threat to growth and competitiveness in Michigan.

“Science supports the fact,” the letter continued, “that no matter what emission controls take place in Allegan, Ottawa, Muskegon, Mason and Benzie counties, they will be unable to comply with the 8-hour air quality standard until the upwind areas across Lake Michigan reach the 8-hour standard.”

If the EPA doesn’t clean up northern Illinois and western Wisconsin first, its rule — for starters — could impose upon West Michigan motorists the use of expensive boutique gasolines.

  • Finally, here’s today’s journalism lesson. Any TV stations out there with designs of expanding news coverage soon will have more slots to compete against.

24 Hour News 8 next weekend is expanding and adding weekend news coverage. WOOD TV8 will broadcast local news from 7-8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and also next Sunday will debut “To The Point,” an issue-driven show hosted by political reporter RickAlbin, from 10-10:30 a.m. The local show will follow “Meet The Press” on Sunday mornings.

The weekend coverage will bring to 31 the total hours of local news the station broadcasts weekly.            BJX

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