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January, 2017

 

100 Years Ago

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Grass Lake Resident Killed by Engine

John Dakin, a resident of Grass Lake, was run over and killed by a Michigan Central switch engine in the Hayes Wheel company yards Monday morning. He has been employed at this factory about three years. The accident occurred while he was engaged in carrying some lumber across the railroad track which leads to the plant. It is said his hearing was defective. Daniel Bisbee, who saw the switch engine coming and the danger Mr. Dakin was in, shouted at him to look out, but he did not heed the warning. It is said the fireman, Mr. Tenney, also sought to attract his attention before the engine struck him, by yelling at him. Engineer Leinaer stopped his train as soon as he could after learning of the danger, but it was too late.

The Johnson & Gildersleeve undertaking rooms, and Coroner Tibbets ordered an inquest held. Police Constable Phelps empaneled a jury, which viewed the remains and adjourned to meet on Friday evening at 7 o’clock.

The deceased is survived by a widow and a son, Vern Dakin, who reached the hospital shortly after his father died. Mr. Dakin was 52 years old.

Mr. George Wolf and Miss Helen Serviss were married Thursday evening and are receiving the congratulations of their friends. (Note: George Wolf was better known as Dutch, my grandmother Lydia’s brother.)

Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Fox spent Thursday in Jackson and Mrs. Remington tended the switch board at the Bell Telephone office.

Esther Cooper spent Sunday with her niece Clara Hewlett who is recovering from her severe burns at the hospital in Ann Arbor.

The remains of John R. Fowler of St. Louis, Mo., arrived in Grass Lake for burial in the east cemetery last week. The floral offerings were the largest ever seen here as they filled one-half of a baggage car.

Mrs. W.A. Boland and daughter Gertrude will leave Sunday for Seattle, Washington, where they will join Mr. Boland for the winter. Grey Tower, the Boland summer home, near Grass Lake (Grey Tower Road), will be closed this winter for the first time in history.

The Revival Meetings which Rev. S.J. Pollock has been holding at Sharon have closed. The meetings were very much enjoyed and much good was done.

Arthur Russell, who was seriously injured last Friday at the Davis-Shelly lumber yard, by a pile of sacked plaster falling on him, is not improving as rapidly as his friends would wish.

Norman Davis had an exciting runaway in Grass Lake this week when his team became too frisky and took a spin down Main street.

James B. Field of Jackson who is general agent of the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., transacted business in Grass Lake on Tuesday and distributed calendars among his friends.

Gathered by Linda Lockwood Hutchinson.


In the Spotlight: Stoker Tax & Accounting, LLC

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Taxes.  Sure as death, said Ben Franklin.

April showers may bring May flowers but not without friendly reminders — W2 and 1099 forms, et al — that April 15 is less than four months away.

No pressure.  Local accountant Duane Stoker, owner of Stoker Tax & Accounting, works in a taxing profession.  A primary task in his line of work is to prepare tax returns, corporate and personal, and examine financial records for hundreds of clients in Grass Lake, Jackson County, and across state lines.  Apart from professionals who prepare returns from their homes Stoker has the only brick and mortar accounting firm in town.

In October he moved his business from a room at Grass Lake Chiropractic Center to his current location at 219 East Michigan Avenue.  With more than 20 years of experience he wanted more exposure to draw in more clients.

“The move to our own office has given our practice more visibility,” Stoker says.  “Now we have signage that allows the general public to see us everyday, which has given us more walk-in business.”.

“Public support has been great,” Stoker adds.  “The support has been really good and greatly appreciated in Grass Lake and the surrounding area.”    

Like other accountants Stoker started out by preparing tax returns while he was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Accounting.  He says that, though they were formative years, he didn’t have a crystal ball that indicated he’d be where he is in his career today.

“I can’t say that I had a vision of where I would be back when I started out preparing taxes.  I just used it as a means to pay for graduate school and it just continued to grow a little bit each year.”

Age 50, Stoker recalls his high school years when he studied Trigonometry, a prerequisite to Calculus.  He says that the instructor introduced to the class accounting in addition to the regular course material.

Stoker says that prior to going into private practice earlier jobs in his field helped him to build a strong foundation in the financial aspects of local businesses and corporations.  “It helped me to develop skills required to interpret financial statements and in turn explain them to users.”  

But is it a bad idea to prepare your own tax returns or am I just thinking of a friendly word of caution delivered by actor Rick Moranis  in a scene in Ghostbusters?

Not necessarily.  Stoker has no direct competition from other accounting firms but nowadays taxpayers can prepare their own tax returns with computer programs like TurboTax and Quickbooks.

“Individuals that self prepare their own returns have a number of software packages to rely on,” he acknowledges.  “But it’s important to understand what information is required and how it applies to one’s particular situation.  Also, it’s important to know the requirements per the IRS code.”   

In Michigan the individual income tax is 4.25 percent, “middle of the road” compared with other states.  Corporate taxes amount to six percent.  “Businesses are different because you have different issues,” Stoker explains.  “Businesses have employees, fixed assets.  There are also different business entity types which can require different types of tax returns.

“A majority of my client base is located in Michigan,” he adds, “but I do have clients that are out of state.”

The IRS and income taxes were created during the era of Prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, signed into law on the “Thirst of July.”  Prior to that, taxes on alcohol funded the government but when the country went dry the Fed needed a substitute cash flow and implemented the income tax.  Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face.

Congress approved the Volstead Act, the popular name for prohibition, by overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.  But with the passage of the Twenty First Amendment, which repealed the law, the government began to tax both income and alcohol.

Accounting is not unlike Law, Medicine, IT or other professions.  Professional development in Stoker’s field requires him to renew his license every three years.  Each year he earns 24 credits through continuing education, two of which credits must be in ethics.  There is no additional licensing to practice out of state, he says.     

A lifelong Grass Laker, Stoker and his wife, Annette, have been married for 19 years.  Before and after tax season stoker enjoys hunting and belongs to a men’s golf league at Calderone Golf Club.

By now the W-2 and 1099 forms and assorted tax love letters are sliding surreptitiously into mailboxes from Portland, Maine to Portland Oregon, the first snowfall heralding financial winter sure to arrive by April.

Numbers don’t lie.  You can argue opinions but you can’t argue figures. But the right type of professional, someone like Duane Stoker, possesses the ways and means to advocate on behalf of the taxpayer with the kinder, gentler IRS.

As for Benjamin Franklin, he originally wrote the aforementioned statement (see paragraph one) in a letter to a French diplomat in 1789. However, the Kite Flyer who loved roast turkey so much that he advocated for it over the bald eagle purloined the maxim from novelist Daniel Defoe, whose prose exerted more dramatic imagery: “This as certain as Death and Taxes can be more firmly believed than the Devil.”

517.513.6065

219 E Michigan Ave

www.stokertaxaccounting.com

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Public Notice: Village Meeting Minutes- January 3, 2017

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January 3, 2017  REGULAR MEETING

     Call to Order– President DeBoe called the regular meeting of the Village Council to order at 7:00 p.m. Members present Joseph DeBoe, Sharon Sherwood, Gina Lammers, Dave Wilcox, Carolyn Rees, Dave Keener and Joel Grimm. Also present Lammers and Nolte. Public present Jim Stormont and Diane DeBoe.

     Pledge by All.

    Adopt Agenda– Motion by Wilcox to adopt the agenda with one addition, support by Rees. All in favor, motion carried.

     Minutes– Clerk read the minutes of the December 20, 2016 regular meeting. Discussion. Motion by Sherwood to accept the minutes of December 20, 2016 meeting as read, second by Lammers. All in favor, motion carried.

     Public– No comment at this time.    

     Bills- Clerk presented the bills for the month of January. Discussion of the bill for MML the annual premium is up over $400 from last year.  Motion by Keener to approve the bills totaling $51,908.75 and Consumers Energy and Kelly Fuels when received, second by Sherwood. All in favor, motion carried.

      Maintenance– Lammers reported it was pretty quiet between Christmas and New Year’s so the guys took some time off. They will be working on putting in more new water meters.  Historical Connections have removed the benches out of the DPW barn hopefully in preparation for moving Car 29.

     Correspondence-The Jackson County Solid Waste Management Plan was discussed. Nolte suggested having Grant Bauman attend the next council meeting so that he can address any questions council has.

     Committee ReportsDiscussion of having a meeting of the finance committee on Jan. 11th. Motion by Sherwood to schedule a special meeting on Jan 11th with no pay for council members if they attend, second Lammers. All in favor, motion carried. Senior Center is doing some fund raising now. Discussion of the weekend for the community garage sale; it will be on June 9th & 10th.

     Old Business. None.

     New Business.

     DPW– Lammers gave council a detailed report of the existing equipment and the need to start replacing some of the older pieces. He developed a replacement plan with the year the equipment was purchased, cost and estimated replacement cost. Some of the equipment is over 30 years old. Lammers is suggesting a 3 mil increase of the village taxes , 2 mil’s for equipment and 1 mil for operations, to start saving some money to be able to purchase newer equipment. DeBoe gave all members of council a breakdown of what a 3 mil increase will do to their tax bill with Lammers being the hardest hit. Council thanked Lammers for all of the information.

     Village Managers Report– Nolte reported that four streetlights were out but that he thought Consumers Energy had gotten them fixed. Nolte told council that he will be cutting his hours and his salary so that they can start looking for a new village manager.  He suggested using MML,he thought if they started in June or July that should give them enough time as he is planning on retiring in Jan. of 2018. Discussion of the asphalt in front of the Lost Railway Museum on Michigan Ave. Lammers did get it filled in but the contractor will be responsible for filling it in in the spring when they can get asphalt.

     Pending Business– Historical Connect ions/Car 29 this is on hold until the village attorney is back to work. Sign Ordinance, discussion of changing the ordinance, as apparently people don’t know how to work the “OPEN” signs correctly.

     Upcoming Events– They will be taking down the Christmas decorations on Sunday for anyone who wants to help. Winter fest will be on January 21, 2017. Business Expo will be on March 18, 2017 at the High School. Check out upcoming events on villageofgrasslake.com or grasslakechamber.org websites. If you can volunteer go to volunteergrasslake@gmail.com.

     Public-Diane asked about MapleSt/Church St. Dollar General has not completed the purchase of the property where the new business will be.      

     Adjournment– Motion by Keener to adjourn the meeting with support by Wilcox. All in favor, motion carried. 8:28 p.m.Respectfully

Submitted

Estelle Mead-Clerk

Changes in bold and underlined.

Minutes approved with changes 1-17-2017.


No Dollar General Update

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Despite the recent arrival of earth moving equipment, there has been no progress on the building of Dollar General.

The closing on the sale of the property was scheduled for last week. “After that it will need to be filed with the registrar of deeds with the county, an address issued” according to Tom Nolte. “We won’t issue a building permit until we have the proof of ownership and an accuratew address for the property” said Nolte.

“The equipment was probably brought out and dropped off to beat the frost laws” Nolte speculated. Until the building permits are issued, they cannot start moving dirt.

Previously the developers said it would take about 90 days from start of construction to the store opening.


Annual Winterfest and Chili Cook Off Sets Record Attendance

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Jayme Slais wants to learn the art of ice carving.  “I’m new to carving, never handled a power tool in my life before,” she said, the cuffs of her Carhart coveralls flecked with ice and mud.

The Henry Ford College student attended Winter Fest and Chili Cook Off at Grass Lake High School last Saturday.  Slais said she came to Grass Lake to take notes and to cheer on members of the school’s ice carving club, which she recently joined, to watch them turn the solid form of H2O into a work of art.

This year was the first time that the event was held at the high school.  Previously Winter Fest happened in the Village, which made sense, so that residents could see the sculptures but there is more room at the school.   

“This is a better venue, a very functional venue,” said pharmacist Todd Raehtz, who co-coordinated Winter Fest and the Chili Cook Off with photographer April Scott.  “Fantastic!” Raehtz said.  “This is the biggest crowd yet, a balance in the dead of winter.”

Organizers estimated that between 600 and 800 people attended the annual event.  Approaching the venue one noticed the tent city set up outside the entrance to the school, the music pulsing and rattling your fillings.    

Greg Cagney, the dean of the Chili Cook Off, stood by the entrance of the gymnasium where all the booths were set up.

Cagney in his shirtsleeves chided me for wearing a scarf.  I asked him about his award-winning chili, “Papa’s Poyson.  “I won five out of the last six contests,” he said.  “I finished second one year.  My recipe is simple — no recipe.  I just dump everything in until it tastes good.”  He filled his pot with elk and venison.  He said he didn’t bag an elk this past hunting season but imported one shot by a friend in New Mexico.

There were no sore losers here. “Me and Greg lost our plaques this year,” said Kim Miller, who won best booth in 2016. “We were happy to lose our reigning bowls.  I think it’s good.  Let somebody else claim the title, which will be good because more people will come in.”

“We were out of chili by 2:15,” she added.  “Everybody was.  After two o’clock everybody was scraping bottom, which never happened before.”

First place went to Lori Sumala of Jackson for her “Cow Girl Filly Chili,” second place to Swift Cooking in Rives Junction, and Rex Murdock took third.    

Murdock offered samples of Mexican-style chili laden with bacon, onions, Mexican sausage, and jalapeños.  He acknowledged that his recipe was an acquired taste.  “If it’s too spicy then you’ll lose your audience.”

Didn’t I know it?  Bottled water went for a buck a pop but the penniless writer carried no cash. After much sampling my mouth tasted like the bottom of a bottle of Fireball.  Avoiding the entanglement of the line dancers in the atrium, I searched for a water fountain to quench the blaze.  Where was the Good Humor Man when you needed him?

You didn’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blew Saturday — it came up from the South.  Nevertheless, many wondered about the weather.  The Weather Channel forecasted a freak warm spell, a rise in the mercury to a balmy 57 degrees.  Who could complain about that in late January?  If there were any climate changers in the crowd they must have been praying secret alleluias.  Contingency plans were crafted but in the end the Ice Men did cometh.

Planning has begun for the 2018 Winterfest and Chili Cook Off, Miller said.  Slais said that she hopes to make it back to Grass Lake next year, this time with her picks, handsaws, and carving tools.   


Grass Lake Family Stars in HGTV’s House Hunters International

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A fascination with the HGTV television show House Hunters International led to a  Grass Lake family starring in their very own episode. When Shannon Maynard found out they were moving to Augsburg Germany for husband Chris’s job, she reached out to the HGTV’s House Hunter International to apply to the show. “I have watched the show many times and was fascinated by the families who made the decision to move across the world”.

The Maynard family, husband Chris and wife Shannon, 4 kids; David (13), Aaron (10), Nathan (7) and Charlotte (6) have lived in Grass Lake for the past 2 years however the kids have been attending Grass Lake Community Schools since 2009.

In the fall of 2015, Chris called me to let me know the European IT manager was leaving the company. His boss had asked him to spend one week a month in Germany handling the office until they could find his replacement. (Chris was the North American IT manager at that time.) I joked with Chris that he should just take the position. When Chris mentioned my comment to his boss, he loved the idea. So what started out as a joke ended with a 3-5 year contract. “I love traveling and had always dreamed of visiting Venice and London so the idea of living here short-term was appealing” Shannon said.

Applying for the show involved talking with the casting director, filling out a lengthy questionnaire followed by two phone interviews and a video introducing the family.

When asked about the whole experience of the show, Shannon replied “It was really interesting to see everything that goes into an episode of the show. We spent five days filming everything that made up the 30 minute episode. Although filming was very tiring, we enjoyed the different activities we did in Augsburg and it gave us a unique view of our new city.”

When asked whether they thought about millions of people watching them, Shannon’s response was “We thought about our family and friends watching us, but not millions of people.” I also asked if they thought of themselves as being famous, a question my son wanted me to pose to them. Shannon’s response was “ Absolutely not. We love sharing our story and how we reached our decision to move. Being part of HHI allowed us to do this, but does not make us famous. Actually, most of our friends here in Germany have never heard of the show.”

Chris started his new position in January of 2016 and the rest of the family moved to Germany in March. The move took about six weeks to have their possessions packed, shipped and arrive in Germany. The family settled in Augsburg, which is in southern Germany, about an hour northwest of Munich. It  is one of Germany’s oldest cities (founded in 15 BC) and has a population of approximately 286k people. The weather is a bit milder than that of Grass Lake and the time zone is 6 hours ahead.

The family plans on moving back to their home in Grass Lake in the fall of 2018 when Chris’s contract is up.

The family has traveled extensively while in Germany. When they first announced to the kids they were moving, part of the promise was that they each got to choose one place in Europe and they would travel to the selected city. To date they have been to 10 different countries while living in Europe with Italy “definitely” being their favorite.

The children all take German in school and have learned quite a bit. “The kids are adapting as well as can be expected. It has been more difficult for the older two, but they have made friends and have handled the transition well.” The family was back home this past summer for a few weeks.

When asked about the differences between Germany and Grass Lake, Shannon responded “Honestly, it would be easier for me to list the similarities. Nearly everything is different here- the language, the people, the culture. I think Americans tend to be more friendly and outgoing. We have found most Germans keep to themselves and this can come across as unfriendly. However, most Germans we have met are open to foreigners and patient with us as we’re learning the language. Being located in central Europe, we can travel just a couple of hours and be in a completely different culture.”

“Over the past year we have experienced many new, exciting and scary things. We have chosen to see it all as part of an adventure. Filming House Hunters International is just another part of our adventure.”

The episode can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIo83cDKNhA

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Village Council Votes to Raise Millage Rate

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Increased operating costs,  replacing outdated equipment, improved services and planning for the future were key topics of discussion during Tuesday’s budget workshop and regular Village Council Meeting. In the end, there seemed to be no more options than to increase the millage rate for Village residents.

The council, with all members except Sharon Sherwood in agreement, voted to raise the current rate by 2.356 mils, bringing the total millage rate to 10 mils for Village residents. Dave Keener, who sponsored the resolution along with Gina Lammers said “My biggest concern is to be able to function and improve our services as well as the state of our equipment”.  President Joe DeBoe wants “to make sure that the Village is still here and functioning for our kids and grandkids”.

The Council has additional budget meetings set to discuss capital improvement and additional budget calculations now that the millage rate has been set for the 2017 year. The Village budget runs March through February.

The increase would show up on summer property taxes.

Councilwoman Sharon Sherwood, who voted against the increase, wanted to look for additional savings within the budget. Village Manager Tom Nolte and other council members did not think there were anymore significant cuts that could be made to generate the savings needed.

A 2.356 increase would increase the property taxes of a home valued at $100,000 with a taxable value of $50,000 by $117.80 per year. A home    valued at $200,000 with a taxable value of $100,000 would increase by $235.60 a year.

The increase would generate an additional $66,947.30 of tax revenue annually based on current taxable values.

The working idea is that 2 mils, or about $56,831 would go into the equipment fund while the remainder would go into the general fund.

At the last council meeting, Paul Lammers presented the Council with detailed information about the aging equipment and the costs for updating the equipment. The dump truck currently used is over 30 years old and is in such bad shape that an old stop sign is used to cover the rusted out floor on the drivers side. The Village will be posting the open meetings for public comment next week.

The increase in the millage rate comes on top of water and sewer rate increases this past fall.

In other business, the Village Council asked Tom Nolte to setup Village email accounts for all employees and council members so that they can be compliant with Freedom of Information Requests for email correspondence.

Paul Lammers reported the DPW had completed another 24 installations of new smart meters for water customers. The new meters allow reading from the street rather than having to manually read each meter. They are more accurate and will be installed at every water customer over the coming years.