Street Talk

Street Talk: Courts go fee free

Food for thought.

March 1, 2019
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During March, some Kent County residents can settle outstanding court debts without further penalty or incarceration.

The 62-B District Court in Kentwood and the county’s 63rd District Court are promising to waive late and warrant fees for those who take advantage, except for the $45 license suspension reinstatement fees, potentially saving some people hundreds of dollars or more. After 56 days late on paying a $115 speeding ticket, for example, a 20 percent fee is added.

The program specifically addresses outstanding warrants for noncompliance with a court order of fines, fees, court costs and any outstanding traffic or parking tickets that have gone into default or suspension.

Whether the defendants pay the fines outright or establish a payment plan based on individual needs, they can take advantage of the offer, according to Hilary Arthur, 63rd District Court administrator/magistrate.

“If people work with the court, the court will work with them,” Arthur said.

To spread the word, she said the court is sharing the information on signs, online and through other county departments, including the friend of the court and circuit courts. La Mejor GR, a Wyoming-based internet radio station for Spanish speakers, shared the information in Spanish on its Facebook page.

This is the second time the court is implementing the program. In October 2017, all six district courts in Kent County participated.

That time, 133 defendants settled $22,000 in fines for the 63rd District Court that time, Arthur said. This year to date, the county said there are more than 4,000 civil infraction and misdemeanor cases in warrant status, totaling nearly $1.2 million.

The 61st District Court in Grand Rapids is not participating again. Fewer than 40 defendants took advantage in October 2017, which was the second time the court implemented the program, according to court administrator Gary Secor.

At any given time, Secor said the court has about 7,000 bench warrants issued, probably resolves about 2,500 per year and is issuing 2,500 to 3,000 per year.

Also, Secor said the court provides plenty of opportunities, including 10-day warnings before bench warrants are issued.

Arthur said this program is part of the 63rd District Court’s overall push toward helping people settle their obligations.

“We're looking at ways that we can encourage and support people to fulfill their obligations,” she said. “We are looking at it, not as a dollar-and-cents collection from the court end, so much as helping people get back on track.”

In general, people can set up payment plans for fines immediately, and this typically is for those who miss payments along the way. She said there are a lot of warnings before reaching this point.

For eligible cases — usually misdemeanors, on an individual basis — low-income defendants can pay off their fines through community service, valued at $10 per hour.

For about two years, defendants behind on payments are called into court to address the issue, which would lead to a bench warrant issued for no-shows.

Arthur said the goal is to encourage people not to be afraid of making payment arrangements with the collections clerk.

Gift of giving

A local corporation is marking its 100th birthday by giving gifts to the community.

Grand Haven-based JSJ Corporation — a holding company for manufacturing, distribution and service businesses — said it would celebrate 100 years in business by partnering with its portfolio companies to donate to local community organizations, which will support the groups with vital programming funds.

JSJ let each of its five businesses select local organizations to receive the funds.

“Giving back to our local communities is one of our core values at JSJ,” said Erick Johnson, executive vice president at JSJ.

“Our leadership and employees all share that mission — and it’s been that way since the early days of JSJ. It’s incredibly important to us that we’ve had the good fortune to be able to give back to the communities where we live and work. We look forward to continuing to support these amazing organizations as they work to make our communities better places to live.”

JSJ businesses and their nonprofit beneficiaries include the following:

JSJ is donating to TCM Counseling, Grand Haven Public Safety, Salvation Army of Grand Haven, Children’s Advocacy Center-Holland and All Shores Wesleyan Church-Feed America Ministry.

Dake is donating to the Little Red House of Spring Lake, which provides adult day care services to community members who are struggling with physical, cognitive and psychosocial limitations.

GHSP is donating to Hand 2 Hand, Camp Blodgett, Muskegon Oceana Community Action Partnership and Love INC of Oceana County.

Hudson Technologies is donating to ME STRONG, a nonprofit aiming to help Central Floridians who are battling cancer.

McLoone Metal is donating to Wafer Food Pantry and Aptiv, both in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

JSJ and its portfolio companies are presenting checks to the beneficiaries throughout the first quarter of 2019.

Home cookin’

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II toured Grand Rapids Community College’s Wisner Bottrall Applied Technology Center last week, speaking with students and faculty about education leading to careers in the culinary arts.

Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are visiting colleges across the state on a “Home for Opportunity” tour, focusing on the variety of educational pathways to help more Michiganders earn degrees and credentials.

Whitmer visited GRCC’s Leslie E. Tassell M-TEC on Feb. 13, her first visit to a community college as governor. It was the day after her first State of the State address, where she recognized the role community colleges play in providing opportunities for degree credits or to transfer to four-year institutions and specialized training for in-demand jobs for people of all ages.

Gilchrest, joined on the tour by state Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, said, “Community colleges play an important role in preparing our workforce for today and tomorrow.”

“It’s really great to see the rich diversity of programs,” he said. “This culinary institute is a beautiful thing. I saw young people, I saw older students who are really hungry — no pun intended — to grow their skill sets and really be able to plug that back into the workforce in this area and in the broader community.”

Whitmer has said many of the jobs going unfilled in Michigan require postsecondary training, including degrees or certifications, and many people already in the workforce will need to gain additional skills to advance. She set a goal of increasing the number of Michiganders with postsecondary credentials from 44 percent to 60 percent by 2030.

Gilchrist toured the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education’s kitchen, brewery and commercial baking classrooms, meeting Director Werner Absenger, chefs Gilles Renusson, Wil Barajas, and Sasha Ahmed, and brewmaster Jacob Brenner.

The internationally known Secchia Institute is one of the nation’s top 20 culinary programs and has been consistently awarded American Culinary Federation accreditation with exemplary status since its inception more than 30 years ago.

Students receive intensive practical training in all aspects of food preparation and presentation, and are prepared to step into any culinary venue.

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