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Scott Bray


Grass Lake Fire Department Serves and Protects

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Heroes are not recruited, they’re not born with special talents, they’re simply men and women who are presented with a situation and act in a selfless manner that exceeds normal expectations.

This past week, I spent an evening with two of Grass Lake’s finest, Fire Chief Greg Jones and Captain Brent Jones, who also happens to be Greg’s son, talking about the Grass Lake Fire Department’s vehicles, equipment and more. Both men agreed to meet with me at the fire station on E Michigan Ave after their regular work day.

The Grass Lake fire department is staffed by volunteer, paid on call firefighters. That means that there are no full-time firefighters, nor is the station staffed at anytime. When a call comes in, the firefighters leave their work, their family event, farm or whatever they are doing to respond to the call. All available firefighters respond to the station where they then respond to the call. The firefighters are paid for the time they are out on a call, an hourly rate of $15 per hour. While all the firefighters are volunteers, they have to meet significant training and physical requirements. The gear alone, weighs in the neighborhood of 75 lbs.

Grass Lake Township and Village residents pay for the fire department through two millages. The first millage, the Grass Lake Fire Department Building, funds the cost of the fire station built in 2004. That millage, .256 mils per $1,000 will be paid off in 2017. This is the last year this tax will be collected. For a home with a taxable value of $75,000 that will be a savings of about $19.20 per year. The funding for the operation of the fire department, the equipment and vehicles comes from the Grass Lake Fire Department Operating millage. That millage is 1.2294, or $1.2294 per $1,000 of taxable value. That equates to $92.20 for a home with a taxable value of $75,000. The Operating millage has to be renewed by the voters every 5 years. Without the millage, there would be no fire department in Grass Lake.

The fire department has responded to an average 25 calls per month during the last 12 months. Chief Jones, a 42 year veteran, said it is quieter during the winter months as they have responded to an average 18-20 calls per month the last few months. “It will pick up as spring comes” he said. The overwhelming majority of calls are medical calls, almost 85% the last few months. Medical calls consist of a variety of reasons; hear attacks, trouble breathing, vehicle accidents, trauma (like falling off a roof, ladder or tree stand), diabetic issues and more, generally anything that can be considered life threatening. While ambulances are also dispatched for every medical call, their response times vary greatly based on where the nearest ambulance is. Brent said “sometimes they beat us to the scene and sometimes we are waiting 20 minutes for one to arrive. We have to be prepared for every scenario the moment we get the call”.

The department consists of 25 firefighters, men, women as well as cadets. There are currently 8 fire vehicles, excluding the 1940’s Village Fire Truck that is used during parades. The oldest truck is T4 (Truck 4), a 1972 Dodge DNR Truck. This truck is on loan from the DNR and used to fight large grass/brush/swamp fires. “We use this only on the really large fires” said Captain Jones. “We have had grass fires that were close to 100 acres”

Firefighter gear is incredibly expensive, yet worth every penny. All the gear is the same for all the firefighters and the cadets. The department uses Globe Turnout Gear. The whole gear weighs nearly 75 lbs. A common misconception is that it is fire proof. Brent was quick to point out that “In an emergency, it buys a guy time. In a flash over, it won’t save you, thats where most guys don’t make it.” The boots are leather boot with rubber soles that are slip resistant. The boots contain a steel plate that protects the firefighters feet from nails and other sharp items that might puncture the boot. The total cost for each firefighter’s gear is close to $3,000.

Vehicles are obviously one of the biggest costs to the fire department. The fire department has in place a truck replacement plan that allows replacing a vehicle every 3 years, ensuring that vehicles will be used only for 21 years before being replaced. Money is set aside each year out of the millage so that the vehicles are paid for with cash, leaving the fire department with zero debt. All the vehicles are proudly built by Michigan companies. By keeping the vehicles newer (less than 21 years) and maintaining them properly, it ensures a better fire rating, which lowers homeowners insurance rates.

Chief Jones recently replaced the tires on Engine 2, at a cost of over $2,500. “Thankfully we only have to replace them about once every 10 years” Greg Jones added.

“Each vehicle has its own specialty and use” said Brent Jones as he walked me through the vehicles in the fire station.

Truck 3 (T3) is a custom built 1993 Ford 350 that is used as a multipurpose vehicle that transports 2 firefighters. It is used primarily for medical runs, highway accidents, ice water rescue.

Rescue 1 (R1), built in 2002, transports an avg 3-4 firefighters is one of the primary vehicles used because of its medical centric usage. It contains all the necessary medical equipment, including oxygen, burn kits, narcon drug, epipens and advanced equipment such as the jaws of life, air bags for lifting heavy objects off of people and its own generator to increase power to the extraction tools.

Engine 1 (E1), was built in 2006. An impressive vehicle that one can just admire for its beauty, let alone its practical usage. It holds 1,000 gallons of water, 1,200 feet of 4 inch hoses for those really long driveways, ladders, lots of ladders, axes, pike poles and self contained breathing packs (air tanks).The air tanks last an average 15-20 minutes depending on the person and the amount of activity. This vehicle can pump water at 1250 gallons per minute, however it usually runs at 60-90 gallons per minute.

Tanker 1 (T1) is a massive vehicle. Built in 2010, this tanker holds 2,000 gallons of water and has a built-in portable 2,500 tank that can be filled by other tankers when no hydrants are available. Most of the Township outside of the Village has no fire hydrants. This tanker is often used to provide water for E1.

Engine 2 (E2) is an older WhiteGMC drafting truck. This tanker is also used to feed E1 as needed. It is called a drafting truck because it can draft water from creeks, ponds or lakes. It can also be used to fight fires directly, as all of the vehicles except for Rescue 1 are capable of.

As a point of reference, during the Federated Church fire last January, the fore department pumped in excess of 200,000 gallons of water. The Village Water Tower holds 500,000 gallons of water when full.

Truck 2 (T2) is probably the coolest fire vehicle around. A custom 2009 Jeep, this vehicle is primarily used to fight grass, brush and swamp fires. 4wd allows this vehicle to go just about anywhere it is needed, even if that is off the beaten path.

Truck 1 (T1) is a 2014 Chevy VTech 4WD that is also used to fight grass, brush and swamp fires. It has also been customized to allow for a Stokes Basket, or in layman’s term, allows securing a stretcher to the back for bringing injured people back to civilization. It carries 150 gallons of water which Brent pointed out “goes a long way”. Along with T2 this vehicle also carries foam retardant.

Truck 4 (T4) is the 1972 Dodge Ram that is on long term loan from the DNR. This vehicle is used as backup for really large grass, brush, swamp fires.

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Sheriff’s Department Report- January 2017

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The Jackson County Office of the Sheriff presented their monthly report to the Village of Grass Lake and the Grass Lake Charter Township at their respective meetings.

Deputy DeLand said “Its been a quiet month. Winter is always quieter because of the cold.”

Deputy DeLand reported patrolling 1,152 miles during the month of January. These numbers only include miles and incidents by Deputy DeLand, it does not include miles patrolled by other deputies or the State Police.

The Village and the Township share a contract with the Sheriff’s Department for a full-time deputy in Grass Lake.

Month/Year to Date (2017)

Complaints Dispatched: 10/10

Incident Reports: 7/7

Arrests: 0/0

Appearance Citations: 0/0

Ordinance Complaints: 0/0

Traffic Citations: 2/2

Verbal Warnings: 10/10

Liquor Inspections: 1/1

Motorist Assists: 2/2

Vehicles Investigated: 20/20

Persons Investigated: 35/35

Assists Other Departments: 2/2

Property Inspections: 35/35

Process Service: 0/0

Grass Lake Fire Department Puts Ice Training to Good Use

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Fire Chief Greg Jones presented the Township Board with his monthly report for January 2017 at the Grass Lake Charter Township Meeting.

The Fire Department completed Ice Water Rescue Training in mid-January on Grass Lake. Two calls in January made good use of that training on two different occasions. The Fire Department was able to rescue two dogs in two separate instances on two different bodies of water this past month.

Chief Jones said he could not recall ever rescuing a dog before, however they had to do that twice within a 12 hour period in January.

The first incident took place on a private pond off Saude Ln. The dog walked out on the pond and fell through the ice. Donning the ice water rescue suits, the firefighters were able to get close enough on the ice and then wade out to the dog through the ice cold water.

In a similar situation about 12 hours later, firefighters were called to Grass Lake for a dog that had gotten away from its owner, ran out onto the lake and fell through the ice. The dog was struggling to stay afloat and had gone under twice before the firefighters were able to rescue it. Jones said that the dog was going under for the 3rd and likely last time when firefighter Brent Jones was able to reach under the water and rescue it. These rescues require ropes, life preservers and teamwork within the whole crew.

The suits used are the same as the Coast Guard utilizes and keeps the firefighters dry and safe from drowning. Without the suits and training, these types of rescues would not be possible.

Chiefs report:

Medical Calls: 20/20

Structure Fires: 0/0

Vehicle Accidents: 0/0

Fire Alarms: 1/1

Vehicle Fires: 0/0

Gas Leaks/Fuel Spills: 0/0

Open Burning: 0/0

Total of 21 calls within Grass Lake Charter Township

The average response time for all calls was 8.89 minutes (this includes automatic aid and mutual aid response times) and the average miles from the fire station was 3.8 miles.

Calls by Shift:

1st shift: 15

2nd shift: 6

3rd shift: 4

4 Automatic Aid was provided to Napoleon Township.

Two Grass Lake Churches Celebrate Milestones

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This month two Grass Lake churches are celebrating milestones, one bittersweet, one sweet, each event in collaboration between two faith communities.

Pastor William Walbridge is retiring after 30 years of ministry at Grass Lake Assembly of God Church.  His final Sunday service is scheduled to be held on Sunday, the 26th at the church on Mount Hope Road.  A reception and luncheon will follow.    

Meanwhile at Saint John’s United Church of Christ Pastor David Cornwell has produced a collection of Christmas hymns that “have inspired, changed, and blessed my life,” the pastor said. The CD is titled “From My Heart” and is available for purchase.

The album debut will be held at Grass Lake Assembly on Friday the 24th at six p.m.  Cornwell explained that the UCC site isn’t big enough to hold those who plan to attend.  The Grass Lake Assembly has a larger gathering space, he said.

Proceeds from the sales of the CD will be donated to David’s Promise, a ministry of Compassionate Ministries in Jackson County, which provides services for adults with developmental disabilities and outreach to their families.

“That’s what the album sales and offering will go toward,” said Cornwell, who has involved himself with David’s Promise for the past two years.

The name “David’s Promise” is taken from the Biblical story of King David’s best friend, Jonathan, whose son Mephibosheth suffers a tragic accident that robs him of the ability to care for himself.  Following the death of Jonathan, David promises Mephibosheth that he would always have a home with the king’s family.

Cornwell, who was born in Tennessee and raised in Indiana, described services at Saint John’s United Church of Christ as “a worship-friendly service, with praise and worship songs, and readings.  We’re not super liturgical, not high church, but a comfort-level type of service, anything but ritualistic.  Just prayer, worship, and preaching.”

Although Cornwell is not ordained in the UCC he has served in Michigan for 21 years.  “The church is fairly autonomous; as a country church we do our own thing.”

“From my Heart” is a collection of hymns that have inspired Cornwell during his ministerial career.  “Over the years people have suggested a record and I finally took the opportunity with the hope that it is not for gain for myself but to raise awareness for special needs,” the preacher said.  “Christian-based ministry is meant to raise awareness for special needs.”

“David’s promise—that’s the real impetus for all of this,” Cornwell added.

Though he is not a musician “in the traditional sense,” the CD collection is “cover album,” an expression of his personal walk with the Lord.  To compile the collection he worked with Daywind Christian Recording in Nashville, Tenn.  The project has been in the works for more than a year and the completed album contains nine songs, including “Amazing Grace,” “Mashup,” written by contemporary Christian recording artist Chris Tomlin, and “Alleluia Christmas” by the late Canadian writer and musician Leonard Cohen.

Cornwell acknowledged that the events held in February’s final weekend will be bittersweet with the retirement of Walbridge.  “Churches and pastors are united,” the UCC pastor said.  “It’s almost like there’s one church in Grass Lake; we just worship in different places.  We can call on each other.  Pastor Bill has been a great influence in leading that also.  We’re sad to see him leave but it’s a great community of believers and we’re fortunate in Grass Lake.”       

If you go: Pastor William Walbridge’s final Sunday service is set for 10:30 a.m. on Sunday the 26th of this month.  Cornwell’s CD concert is scheduled for six p.m. on the Friday the 24th.  Both events are to take place at Grass Lake Assembly of God Church at 2900 Mount Hope Road.  For more information call 517-522-4088 or visit

Saint John’s United Church of Christ is located at 270 Bohne Road in Grass Lake.(517) 522-5353

Grass Lake School of (Rock) Music

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Wanna rock?

Enrollment for music lessons at the new Grass Lake School of Music is now open.   

Founded by long-time Grass Lakers Kyle and Terri Neely, the school is intended to draw students ages six to sixty.  The Neelys plan to open their “ instrumental petting zoo” on March first.

“It’s moved really fast and we’ve always wanted to do this,” said Terri, 40, who left her job as a property manager in Ann Arbor to devote time to managing the school with Kyle.

“The interest seems to be big,” she said.  “It’s now or never; that’s the way to go.”   

Their impetus stems from the adage “build it and they will come.”  It can be difficult for parents to shuttle the kids from school to athletic events and then drive outside of town for music lessons.  Now future Stevie Ray Vaughns and Woody Guthries won’t have to.

Recently the Neelys signed a lease for the building at 126 Brown Street, formerly Our Jardin, a cold-press juice market, which closed last year.  Terri said she and her husband knew that the 1100 square-feet location was the place to be.  “It was meant to be,” she said.  “Ours is truly a destination business.  We don’t need to be on the main drag and there’s no foot traffic.”

As promoter Terri is on the business end of the school, “to find the right learner for the right instructor,” she said.  “It’s the outlet they need, a definite place for music education. We’re opening in a rural area but the demand is greater in a rural area.  People don’t want to drive miles for a lesson when it’s right in their back yard.”   

Kyle teaches music at Jackson College and Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, from where he hails.  He is a 2000 graduate of Eastern Michigan University where he studied classical guitar.

Tall and sporting a pair of harness boots and Ray-Bans, Kyle, 50, played guitar with Sponge, a group that featured “revolving bass players” in the 90s before MTV jumped the shark after video killed the radio star.

Kyle names Kiss and Foreigner as primary influences when he was learning how to play.  Queen?  “Absolutely,” he said.  “Every music needs tone and color.  I love groups that play the right thing.  If I wasn’t out playing I’d be miserable.  I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m good at it, and am pretty excited about the school.”

The GLSM isn’t just for kids in the community.  Terri estimated that forty percent of the studentry are likely to be Baby Boomers who wish they’d started taking lessons when they first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or the guitar licks of Keith Richards—the Lazarus of the rock world—on “Jumping Jack Flash.”  In 1964 the Mop Tops invaded American radio, nearly overthrowing the King and everybody wanted to be in a band.     

During the interview talk turned to a discussion of the Pantheon of the Monsters of American Rock; that was by design.  Terri opined that all bands are homegrown.  Singers are important but the sound and style defines the group, Kyle said, say, with Van Halen.  Eddie Van Halen’s clean, fast technique defines their music whether the front man is David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar.  Hagar was a team player but Roth was a showman who wheedled his way back in, relegating the other one to an asterisk in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.       

I can’t write without listening to music.  Bob Dylan was sort of like that only in reverse, the first contemporary rock musician who wrote his lyrics on a typewriter rather than India ink with a quill pen like Robert Plant.  Kyle said he prefers listening to Dylan songs when somebody else performs them.  We agreed to disagree.       

When it comes down to it it’s about rock-ability, the influence that music exerts on different people in different ways.  Nobody mobs the woodcutter and clambers for their autographs and you’ll never hear “Stairway to Heaven” in an elevator unless you’ve been taking something you shouldn’t.

The Neelys said they are looking to incorporate the school so that they can offer sliding scale lesson fees and scholarships.  Rates are $30 per half hour paid monthly in advance. 15% multi sibling discount.

On a recent Friday night Kyle played a set at Roaming Goat Coffee, a well-attended gig, sitting room only with hardly a space of bare floor.  He trotted out a Howard Roberts guitar, the Holy Grail of hollow-bodied guitars, as an understudy sat close by.

Mason Busch, age nine, said he said he wanted to learn how to play the guitar “to feel like what it’s like to be in front of the crowd.”  I don’t think he was talking about the Human League song.  Mason’s mother Katie said that she is happy that a local music school is opening in Grass Lake.  “There’s nothing else nearby, nowhere to go,” she said.  “It’s the right time and the right place.”     

The Neelys are confident that the Grass Lake School of Music will become a rock of ages.  Their Facebook page boasts nearly 500 “likes.”  Add more of them by checking them out on Facebook, and visiting their website at

The school is located at 126 Brown Street in Grass Lake. 734-355-7237

Construction Begins on Hotly Debated Dollar General

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Construction began this week on the hotly debated Dollar General. Excavating equipment began moving dirt at the new location. Heavy rains and lots of mud delayed the work this week. Pallet skids, used to keep equipment from sinking too far into the  mud were seen on-site.

The Village of Grass Lake confirmed they issued the necessary permits to the builders, Westwind Construction out of Spring Lake, MI, on Monday, February 6th. The building permits do not include the estimated costs of construction. They show the property as being 2.37 acres and the building size being 9,304 square feet.

The permits require $1,665 in permit fees as well as $3,000 for water hook-up and  $3,000 for sewer hook-up.

Previous construction details indicated the back portion of the property would need to be raised approximately 3 1/2 feet to match the grade of the rest of the property.

Zoning requirements required the building conform to very specific specifications. It will be unlike any other Dollar General in the area.


Girls on the Run & Heart & Sole Begins

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Enrollment is open for girls at George Long Elementary and Grass Lake Middle schools for “Girls on the Run!” 2017 and “Heart & Sole,” respectively, programs designed to instill in girls healthy eating habits and exercise programs.

“Girls on the Run!” is open to all third through fifth grade girls. They are scheduled to meet to train after school on Monday and Wednesday from 3:15-4:45 p.m. from March 13 through May 26.
Team members of “Heart and Sole” will meet on Monday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. from March 13 through May 26 and also are training for a run.
The goal of the programs is to empower young girls, teach them teamwork, and achieve their fitness goals, said Mary Magos, who teaches at Grass Lake Middle School. Magos serves as head coach with assistance from Denise Lotz and Angela Berent, and other teachers.
Registered participants receive healthy snacks at each training session, a t-shirt, a water bottle, a parent guide book, and entry into the “Girls on the Run!” 5k on Sunday, May 21. Registration for the new program “Heart and Sole” for Middle School girls in grades sixth through eighth grade. Now in its second year, Heart and Sole exists to dissuade students from temptation to drugs and peer pressure.
Last May 15 girls turned out for the runs, Magos said. Training takes place in the school cafeteria or the gymnasium in darker months.
Magos, herself a runner, has coached the Girls on the Run team for five years. “I run 5k races and triathlons,” she said. As race dates draw near Magos said she has seen great progress in the girls this year. “I’ve seen the level of confidence rise in them,” she said. “They walk with strength and purpose and they feel like their ideas matter.”
Magos acknowledged that not all participants will run the entire lengths of the races but that’s not the point. “The philosophy of both programs is that as long as the girls are moving forward they can chose what that looks like—walk, run, or skip, giving the girls the power to choose how they move helps tremendously,” Magos said.
Magos has an advantage as a coach not just because she runs triathlons but also because as a science teacher she understand kinetics and nutrition. “As a science teacher and a coach for many years, I help encourage the girls to build exercise into their lives as a way to help stay in shape and act as a stress reducer. I also want the girls to have fun while they get active and enjoy being part of a team.”
Teamwork is the optimal means to help runners train and meet their personal goals, said Doug Moeckel Director of Transportation, Community and Cooperative Services
Grass Lake Community Schools.
“We are very fortunate to have teachers, parents and community members involved with the Grass Lake School District who enjoy going “over and above” their everyday responsibilities to provide excellent opportunities for our students outside of the classroom, with programs such as ‘Girls on the Run” and “Heart and Sole’. From the perspective of the Grass Lake Community Wellness Initiative, we are very interested in involving community members of all ages in healthy activities. These programs not only provide lessons that encourage the physical aspects of healthy living for these students, but also life lessons in social skills. It is a win-win scenario for all of us.”
Adult marathoners traditionally ‘carb up’ the night before the big run, gorging on pasta. The Grass Lake runners preparing for the races will eat a normal dinner the night before the races and are encouraged to eat a good breakfast prior to the runs. Stretching before running or walking the laps happen at each practice to ensure that the that girls don’t pull muscles. Hydrating with water also is optimal.
For more information on enrollment and the races contact Magos at George Long Elementary School at 517-867-5590 or