County completes its musical chairs

January 9, 2012
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Kent County commissioners unanimously elected Sandi Frost Parrish to a third consecutive one-year term as commission chairwoman last week. They then unanimously named Commissioner Dan Koorndyk commission vice chairman for the first time. Koorndyk replaces Ted Vonk in the post and as chairman of the Legislative and Human Resources Committee. Commissioner Harold Voorhees was renamed chairman of the county’s Finance Committee. Board members also re-elected Commissioner Carole Hennessy minority vice-chair. This will mark the third consecutive year Hennessy has held that title, which was created three years ago.

“There is really a lot we want to accomplish this year,” said Parrish after being re-elected. At the top of her list is for the board to deliver a balanced operating budget for next year like it has the past two. Work on that is likely to get started next month.

In the bank

Kent County Treasurer Kenneth Parrish introduced commissioners to the first executive director of the county’s new Land Bank Authority last week — someone with whom the development community should be familiar. The authority recently and somewhat quietly named David Allen its first operational leader.

Allen founded Lighthouse Communities Inc., a nonprofit development firm, in June 2000, and then served as the organization’s executive director. One of his most rewarding projects was Uptown Village, which Lighthouse developed with Rockford Construction about five years ago. The village offers townhomes and commercial space on the corner of Wealthy Street and Diamond Avenue in southeast Grand Rapids. Lighthouse Communities, which is now known as LINC Community Revitalization, did an assessment of the neighborhood shortly after Allen started the firm, and the study determined there was a real need for affordable housing there.

“He is very excited to be back in the community-development field and we’re excited to have him,” said Parrish.

Parrish founded the Land Bank Authority and serves at its chairman. Grand Rapids City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, Kentwood City Commissioner Sharon Brinks, Plainfield Township Supervisor George Meek and Kent County Commissioner Stan Ponstein are board members.

Some like it hot

Mike Malaney, president of the Grand Rapids office of Travel Leaders, reported that a company survey shows more of the firm’s clients will spend as much or possibly more on travel this year than last. He added that the travel trend of 2012 is revealing a higher interest in going to the Caribbean and in small-ship cruising, off-the-beaten path travel and international family travel.

Malaney said the top five domestic destinations for local travelers are Hawaii, Orlando, Las Vegas, Alaska and Phoenix. (Apparently, Jenison fell off the list.) The top five international destinations are Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Jamaica (mon’) and European river cruises. Malaney said the up-and-coming international travel destinations are Croatia, Vietnam and Panama, closely followed by Ecuador and Brazil. Bon voyage!

At least he can cook!

With Chef Tommy FitzGerald, you never know what you’re going to get. Or not get. In the latter category, some might be surprised to learn that the third annual Juice Ball, a benefit for Kids’ Food Basket, presumably went off without a hitch Saturday at the JW Marriott.

FitzGerald has a huge heart, but sometimes other body parts can’t keep pace. In this instance, our chef friend apparently mixed up his sending signals, and the event announcement for the Juice Ball didn’t make it to the intended recipients. Marty Primeau, managing editor of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, heard about the soiree through other channels and mentioned it late last week during a piece on NPR affiliate WGVU with host Shelley Irwin.

We think somebody heard Marty and Shelley, and shortly thereafter gave Chef Tommy a call.

His better-late-than-never announcement arrived late Thursday morning, after the broadcast, with a cute caveat.

“So, I unwittingly hit the wrong buttons, and this info is somewhere hanging in Cyberspace!” (We can just see him saying that!) “I am such an idiot with this stuff; thank God I can cook!”

Since it’s possible Saturday’s gala was a little light in the juice this year (they wanted to collect enough for a million juice boxes), and since Bridget Clark Whitney and the KFB gang are such good eggs, Chef Tommy and his Girl Friday, Anicia Latter, are accepting post-show donations. Make contribution inquiries to and copy

Your money well spent

Well, at least the money is staying local. Grand Rapids-based security and investigations firm DK Security announced last week that it had landed a $15 million contract from the government to provide armed security services for … the military.

More specifically, DK will provide protection for six Michigan military installations: Camp Grayling, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Fort Custer Training Center, Joint Forces Headquarters and Grand Ledge Army National Guard Base.

You would think the military would be able to … well, never mind.

The good news is that DK hired more than 100 Michigan employees to provide an estimated 3,000 weekly hours of armed security services for the five-year pact.

“We’re thrilled to add these high-profile armed military accounts to our portfolio, and even more pleased that a Michigan-owned, veteran-owned company is now providing these services,” said Kathryn Kendall, Ph.D., executive vice president at DK. “This work positions us strongly for continued growth and expansion throughout the state.”

The new deal comes on the heels of DK picking up several other domestic contracts totaling approximately 1,500 weekly hours of security services. These were with colleges, a university, a bank, manufacturing plants and a high-profile condo complex, none of which already have armed people on the premises.

That time of year

Talk about the post-holiday blues. Ric Roane, a family law attorney with Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, says he has a steady stream of husbands and wives in his office after the holidays end who are ready to explore the possibility of divorce. He said that most have tried to “hang on” through the holidays, but find themselves facing an acute crisis — or simply unable to hang on any longer.

“In my 24 years of practice, I have never had a client who wakes up and thinks, ‘OK, today is a good day to get divorced,” Roane said. “About two-thirds of the husbands and wives who come to see me have given divorce a great deal of thought and are absolutely ready to file. The holidays have pushed them beyond the brink. The other third are still exploring options and trying to learn more about what to expect during divorce proceedings.”

Exacerbating the holiday hangover is Michigan’s continuing economic downturn. Roane said he has seen plenty of couples who can’t afford to separate their households stay together even when they don’t want to, while others have been driven apart by it. The two main assets in any marriage — home equity and retirement plans — have been decimated by the current market, he said.

Hope everybody saved those Christmas gift receipts.

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