Hazard County

July 30, 2007
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By all regards in parsel-tongued death throes, the legislative opposition to the Gun Lake Casino in Bradley Township made a potentially embarrassing appearance at a hearing for the State House resolution supporting the compact to allow Class III gaming, as the measure sailed to approval with a 6-0 vote after an hour of debate and testimony.

There were no new players on either side of the debate. On behalf of the Gun Lake Tribe was the same mix of Allegan County residents and municipalities, organized labor interests and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Among the opposition were State Senators Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, and Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, who gave the tribe sufficient opportunity to embarrass them. In a press release issued later that day, the tribe noted Birkholz’s “opposition to the compact, in part, due to her fears that it will provide economic benefits to Allegan County at the expense of downtown Grand Rapids.” Birkholz represents all of Allegan County, but none of Kent County or Grand Rapids. Meanwhile, Jansen, the Grand Rapids delegate, spoke on behalf of his fears that a casino will negatively impact people in the surrounding area already addicted to dangerous behaviors, referring to Allegan County as the “meth capital of Michigan.”

The offices of both senators confirmed the statements.

“I was worried that might be taken out of context,” said Birkholz, noting she is a member of the state’s Land Use Leadership Council. “We need to look at the West Michigan region as a whole.”

While first pointing out that she is opposed to gambling in general, Birkholz explained that she has grave concerns that any harm to Kent County, where many of her constituents are employed, study, worship or have relatives, would be a net negative result to Allegan County.

  • Ten years after the merger that created it, Spectrum Health is still dancing around what to call its various and growing number of facilities. With the recent announcement of a $98 million investment in the hospital in East Grand Rapids, the local health giant quietly introduced new names for its hospitals: It’s now calling them hospitals, a retro ride back to the names used before the merger, spokesman Bruce Rossman noted. Blodgett Campus is now officially Blodgett Hospital and Butterworth Campus is now Butterworth Hospital.

It’s the third name change since 1997, when Spectrum Health christened Butterworth the “Downtown Campus” and Blodgett the “East Campus” in an attempt to smooth over the remaining competitive feelings between them. That never stuck in everyday usage, so after five years, Spectrum relented and allowed the Butterworth and Blodgett names to resurface.

Now they’re doing away with the “campus” designation as a way to cut down on confusion, Rossman said. And the new moniker applies to Spectrum Health’s community hospitals, as well: United Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Reed City Hospital and Kelsey Hospital. “We aren’t making a big deal about it,” Rossman said.

  • Brookstone Capital LLC Principal Karl Chew said he has until tomorrow, July 31, to close on an option to buy the Watson & Heald building at 101 S. Division from Bantam Capital Partners. A purchase price wasn’t confirmed for the 123-year-old structure, but one report placed it at over $500,000. Bantam bought the building from the city in 2005 for a performance bond totaling $165,000, the amount the city spent on making repairs to it. Bantam planned to renovate it, but couldn’t find a retailer or restaurant for the first floor.

Chew said Brookstone wants to build 21 loft apartments on the upper levels and find a commercial tenant or two for the first floor. But to make the financing happen, Brookstone needs Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the state. The Midland-based firm also needs the city to base its taxes on rental income instead of the standard property assessment. Chew also said Brookstone would try to collect historic tax credits for the project.

Dwelling Place held an option on the building until last May, but didn’t have enough time to get its financing in order. Dwelling Place CEO Dennis Sturtevant told the city that Bantam decided not to renew its option.

Should the sale go through, Mayor George Heartwell said Bantam would be required to repay the city $165,000 for the bond the city issued that allowed him to take possession of the building. Brookstone owns Metropolitan Park Apartments, a 24-unit complex at 350 Ionia Ave. SE.

  • City commissioners recognized Ed Kettle last week for the work he did to put together the July 4th celebration that was topped off with a fireworks display. This year’s celebration marked the second straight year Kettle organized the event, after revenue shortages pushed the city and other sponsors out of the red (white and blue) picture two years ago. Kettle gave thanks to Centennial Wireless and Alticor Inc. ( or the Amway Corp.) for serving as the event’s major sponsors, and to city staffers Jay Steffen and Jose Reyna for their invaluable assistance.

First Ward City Commissioner Roy Schmidt said Kettle took on a task that no one else wanted and did a stellar job. Kettle, the owner of Public Affairs Counsel, is running for Schmidt’s seat. So is former Kent County Commissioner Tom Postmus and Swift Printing Co. owner Walt Gutowski. Schmidt is leaving the commission at the end of the year, after 16 years of service, and he has endorsed Kettle for the seat.

  • Talk about a vote of confidence. Kent County Commissioner Dean Agee may have set a new standard in that area last week when he said of County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio, “Daryl is the best administrator I’ve served with.” Of course, everyone at last week’s Legislative Committee meeting chuckled, including Delabbio, because they knew that Agee has only served with one administrator. Agee chairs the committee, and the group approved a three-year job extension for Delabbio, who became administrator in 1999.

The full board of commissioners will get the chance to express their confidence in Delabbio next week when his career falls into their hands.

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