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Friday, August 5th, 2016


Grass Laker Competes In USA Track & Field Junior Olympics

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The 50th USA Track & Field National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships was held in Sacramento, California this past weekend. The USATF Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships is the most visible youth athletic development program in the world. Many of today’s Olympic stars began their track and field careers competing in the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.Entry for this championship is based on athlete performances at preliminary, Association, and Regional levels of the 2016 USATF Junior Olympic Program.

Fourteen year old Grass Laker Drew Allen was one of the participants. Just qualifying for one of these races is quite the accomplishment. The Grass Lake Times spoke with Drew and his mom, Tonya Quinn about the recent experience.

Drew competed in the 1500 meter 13-14 year old boys division this past Friday. Drew has only been running the past two years, at Grass Lake Middle School.  His mom says he has a “gift for running. He’s very competitive, very goal driven.” His qualifying time of 4:31.18 earned him the trip to Sacramento. His 4:30.44 24th place finish (out of 49) in the preliminaries was not strong enough to take him to the finals. Unfortunately for Drew, just before flying out, he came down with strep throat and tonsillitis. “He was just miserably sick” his mom indicated. He started out strong and led for a bit before running out of steam. “he gave it all he had with how he was feeling”.

While being disappointed, Drew seemed upbeat for the future. “I am going to try and get faster” and hope to “get under 4 minites”. When asked about the experience, the typical teenager response of “pretty sweet” with an upbeat tone in his voice and smile on his face. “It was different, but really cool to be there” he responded. Not being a runner, I asked what he thought about when running a race, he said “Going faster, winning the race, going faster.” There is not much time to think about anything else.

For those not as familiar with track distances, or the metric system, a mile is 1609.34 meters.

Drew is eager to “get another shot”. Until then he will keep practicing. He will be attending Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor this fall.

Drew wantedto thank Evan Browne, for helping him train for the race.  Evan is a Grass Lake graduate, played college basketball overseas in Australia, then was Drew’s 7th and 8th grade basketball coach at Grass Lake. He is a personal trainer in Dexter.  His mom added “He has been a wonderful mentor and biggest supporter of  Drew over the last couple years.”





40th Annual Chelsea Sounds and Sights Festival a Success

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Artist Sue Craig sat serenely beneath her tent at the Chelsea Sights and Sounds Festival in downtown Chelsea last Saturday afternoon, showcasing her oil, pastel, and watercolor paintings.  Amid lulls in patronage she was sketching a familiar image.

Hillary Clinton.

The likeness was striking.  Rosy-cheeked, regal smile, eyes fixated on globalism.  Craig explained that she was drawing the portrait to take her mind off the members of the neighboring tent—the local Republican Party. “To counter their speechifying,” she said.  “I’m a huge Democrat and wanted to equal things out.  I was horrified when I found out that my tent was set up next to the Republicans.”

“She wanted to move us,” countered Cindy Fischhaber,” the Washtenaw County Republican chairwoman.  Her take on the general election between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump?  “Wild and vicious.”  Exactly.  That’s why politics is called bloodsport.

Now in its 40th year, the Sounds and Sights Festival is an annual summer weekend event held in Chelsea that draws visitors from the county and from every finger in the Mitten.  The two-day, three-night festival features live music, independent artists, like Craig, and is decidedly kid-friendly.  All performances and activities happen in historic downtown Chelsea.

On Saturday morning rain pounded the region like buckshot on a copper roof.  The deluge dampened the flora in the area but not the spirits of the festival attendees.  The region needed the precipitation in the middle of this dry summer.  So it was the proverbial raining on the parade but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the many merchants, peaceful and prosperous, and their patrons.

Diverse attendees came out despite the waves of the sea that fell from the sky.  The storms of destruction passed by in the early p.m. but rather than turn humid like downtown Miami on the Fourth of July, bilious cloud cover hastened cool breezes refreshing busy dealers and invigorating pilgrims.  Who can the weather command but Al Gore?

Further on down the road vendors at the farmer’s market broke camp and packed surplus merchandise into their trucks and vans.  Sally Goetz and her husband Luke own Goetz Greenhouse in Riga.  They bake bread, craft cheese, honey, and maple syrup.  Eighteen tubs of corn needed to be hauled beneath their tent that morning to protect their stock from becoming creamed corn.

The weekly farmer’s market happens every Saturday eight to noon from May to October.  “It’s a good little market,” Luke Goetz said.  “This is our third season here at the market, which has been going on for about 20 years.  We sell a little bit of everything—eggs, vegetables, syrup, and bread.”

Downtown, beneath a large beer tent, you could hear the wheezing of an accordion, the crack and smash of a drum kit, and a first-rate horn.  The group named the Kielbasa Kings Polka Band, the headliner of the festival, warmed up for its Saturday night performance.  Dogs, scenting Polish sausage, other than service dogs, were prohibited from the beer garden.

So it seemed to be a good time had by all, organizers—dozens under the direction of the local Chamber of Commerce—and vendors showcasing their concerns and their wares.  Forty is the new 25 and the organizers of the Sounds and Sights Festival in Chelsea, crowned with a plaque administered by the United States Department of the Interior, point their compass north to July 2017.                      

Businesses and Residents React to Proposed Dollar General in the Village

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The proposed Dollar General store in Grass Lake has people talking. They’re talking on the street, in the restaurants and they are expressing their feelings on Facebook. It reminds me a little bit of the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” where struggling boutique bookseller Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) battles the big bad chain store, Fox Books. My wife Karla loves that movie so I may have seen it a few (hundred) times.

Dollar General submitted their initial site plan to the Village of Grass Lake for review by the planning commission. The Village Planning Commission was initially scheduled to review the site plan at their meeting on August 11th. That meeting has been postponed because of scheduling conflicts with the Planning Commission members. Since their initial submission, Village Manager and Zoning Administrator Tom Nolte replied back to the developers informing them of some deficiencies in their original application that need to be addressed prior to it being reviewed by the planning commission. That is not an uncommon process.

Facebook commenters on The Grass Lake Open Forum and the Grass Lake Times were pretty vocal about their disproval of the proposed store. I didn’t hear anyone outside chanting “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your superstore! Five, six, seven, eight! Go away and close the gate! One, two, three, four! We don’t want this superstore.” as they did in the movie, however that was the spirit of most commenters. “Not good, it will take away from local business” typed Jamie. “Just like Walmart runs out smaller business in cities, this will be devastating to local small businesses.” typed Jerry. “We won’t be shopping there. I’ll keep supporting the local businesses.” said Emily.

A Facebook petition opposing Dollar General was created. It’s named Citizens opposed to Dollar General in Grass Lake Michigan.

The majority of the discussions revolved around 3 key points:

1) Protecting the local businesses

2) The clientele of Dollar General

3) The longevity/success of Dollar General

I spoke separately with several local businesses to discuss their thoughts on potential impact of a Dollar General; Frank Bednarski and Loree Jones of Franks Shop-Rite, Todd Raetz, owner of Grass Lake Community Pharmacy and Sharon Coppernoll of Coppernoll Hardware.

The responses were not quite in line with the online commenters. Todd Raetz, also President of The Grass Lake Chamber of Commerce, responded that while Dollar General would “more than likely affect our business”, the impact would be minimal. “Dollar General would not have a lot of overlapping products”. “While buying local products from local owners is the best scenario, buying local products from non-local owners is the next best thing.” Sharon Coppernoll also “doesn’t see it affecting us a lot.” “Shouldn’t have a profound affect in sales”. “We are a hardware store, they are not.” From what she understands, they are “heavy into impulse items and imports” while Coppernoll Hardware is not. “Our big sales are in electrical, plumbing and repair”. She “has been expecting it for years.” Bednarski said his customers will continue to come, “they come for the service”. Frank Bednarski indicated he felt “it’s not gonna affect us.” In similar comments as Coppernoll, he indicated “They are not a grocery store”. The proposed store “will have 9000 (9,100) sq ft of space, we have between 33k and 34k sq ft”

The business owners shared a similar sentiment. “It is nice to see strong feelings, positive comments and defending us” said Coppernoll. However, Raetz asked “what are they protecting us from?” He continued “Our community doesn’t shop exclusively in Grass Lake. They take a lot of money out of Grass Lake.” Coppernoll echoed the sentiment that some of the people wanting to protect Grass Lake are not necessarily supporting the local businesses in Grass Lake with their dollars. “Our customers are our customers.” We know most of our customers by name. Many are here every week or every other week. All three businesses echoed the same sentiment “Our customers are great and they support us week in and week out.

Bednarski ended with “For good or for bad, we’ll just see how it goes”. As Raetz was wrapping up our conversation to attend to customers, he said “more conveniences simply make Grass Lake a better community. Each small investment into the community creates such a profound effect.”

So maybe Dollar General won’t end up like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, “I wanted it to be you”, perhaps it has a spot within the community after all. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.

Township Election Brings One Change

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Tuesday’s primary election was a nail biter for the candidates vying for positions on the Grass Lake Charter Township Board. Since all the candidates were running as Republicans, the primary would most likely decide the election. Candidates will go on to the General Election in November where they will be unopposed. If elected, the candidates take office two weeks after the General Election. Throughout the day, candidates felt confident yet nervous. You never know what’s going to happen until the votes are actually counted.

Incumbent Supervisor Jim Stormont was facing challenger Bruce Maxson. Trustees Scott Bray, Thomas (Tom) Brennan, Danny Hart and John Lesinski were being challenged by William (Bill) Lester, Greg Cagney, Sr. and James (Jim) Warbritton. The 4 candidates receiving the most votes would move on to the General Election where they would be unopposed. A write-in candidate could still file.

The unofficial votes were posted at the Grass Lake Charter Township Hall by clerk Cathy Zenz as they came in. The votes are unofficial until the election is certified by Jackson County, however that is what news agencies often report.

Tuesday’s turnout was light yet decisive. Jim Stormont beat out challenger Bruce Maxson by 236 votes. Stormont 540 to Maxson 304. When asked afterwards how it felt, a smiling Jim Stormont said “I’m honored. I’m honored that the people support me. Support us (the Township Board) what we’ve done for our community. What we can do for our community.”

In the trustee race, incumbents held on to 3 of the 4 spots. Scott Bray, Tom Brennan and John Lesinski retained their seats while Danny Hart lost out to Bill Lester. Scott Bray 474; John Lesinski 435; Tom Brennan 421; Bill Lester 394; Danny Hart 378; Greg Cagney, Sr. 357; Jim Warbritton 334.

Scott Bray said “Thanks to everyone who supported me. I am humbled, honored and incredibly excited to serve for the next 4 years.” Tom Brennan echoed “Thank you to everyone that came out and voted today. I’m honored to serve another term in our great community.” John Lesinski when reached was very excited as well. “I am so excited. I am honored that people support me, the township board and what we are accomplishing.”

Incumbent treasurer Tom Loveland and clerk Cathy Zenz were unopposed.

The township has 4,351 registered voters. With 23.1% of the registered voters casting a ballot, that totaled 1006 ballots. That number was higher compared to the statewide average. Township Clerk Cathy Zenz, who is in charge of the elections, said “everything went well. There were no problems. The voting went in spurts throughout the day. She was thankful for the election workers who did a great job and made her job easier.

Complete election results are available online at: