Ottawa County Administrator's Digest

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Alan G. Vanderberg, County Administrator
March 30, 2017

Ottawa County Ranked 1st in Health Outcomes (Kristina Wieghmink)


Ottawa County ranks 1st out of 83 counties in Michigan in Health Outcomes, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings. The Rankings, released every year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, show us that where we live matters to our health and that good health is influenced by many factors beyond medical care including jobs, housing, education, poverty and more. Ottawa County has maintained or improved in 71 percent of the 35 measures, and did as well or better than the State of Michigan in 86 percent of the 35 measures.

Ottawa County’s overall rank and sub-rankings have not changed much from 2016. Ranks can be influenced by new measures or a change in the methods for current measures. A rank may also improve or worsen not due to changes in Ottawa County’s measures, rather from changes in other counties that experienced health gains or losses. 

Ottawa County Strengths

  • Lower overall mortality
  • Lower adult smoking
  • Lower teen birth rate
  • Lower physical inactivity
  • Lower unemployment
  • Lower injury deaths

Ottawa County Opportunities for Improvement

  • Adult obesity (28% Ottawa County compared to 26% top U.S. performers)
  • Excessive drinking (21% Ottawa County compared to 12% top U.S. performers)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (chlamydia is the highest reportable disease in Ottawa County)
  • Ratio of population to primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers
  • Physical Environment continues to be the lowest sub-ranking (as a result of higher housing costs and long commute/driving alone)

The County Health Rankings show how the Ottawa County community works together to improve health outcomes. This is evident in the Community Health Improvement Plan we’ve been implementing and making much progress. For example, the Ottawa Pathways to Better Health program was created to assist people with accessing community services to improve health outcomes.


County Health Rankings   

Ottawa County rank 

Ottawa County Health Improvement Plan 

Ottawa Pathways to Better Health 

Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment Summary 

Ottawa County 2015 Youth Assessment Survey 

Ottawa County Department of Public Health 2016 Annual Report 

Our Hispanic Community Displays in Ottawa County (Reyna Masko)


The Ottawa County Cultural Intelligence Committee is partnering with LAUP (Latin Americans United for Progress) and The Herrick District Library during the month of April to display a collection of stories known as “Nuestra Comunidad Hispana” (Our Hispanic Community).  This project was launched as part of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations and is a result of a collaborative effort between the City of HollandLAUPHerrick District Library, Holland Museum, GVSU, GVSU's Kutsche Office of Local History and Michigan Humanities Council which focused on Holland and Grand Haven, Michigan's Latino communities.

The Nuestra Comunidad Hispana project collected over 50 oral histories between August and November 2016. Those materials are permanently archived in the Herrick District Library. All individuals who participated in the project, including 11 Ottawa County employees, received a free copy of their photograph and oral history at a special reception held February 28, 2017 at Herrick District Library.

These storyboards are being displayed from March 30 through April 25 in five county buildings: Ottawa County Courthouse in Grand Haven, Holland District Court, Community Mental Health (Administration/Clinic Building in Holland), the Department of Public Health (Holland) and the Fillmore Administration Office.

Anyone interested in viewing or hearing materials from the collection is encouraged to visit the Herrick District Library, 300 S. River Avenue, Holland, Michigan after April 25. The materials will be open to the public and will be available through the Genealogy Department.

Click the link below to see the picture gallery of the reception:

Reception Picture Gallery

nuestra 1nue sponsor

Ottawa County Central Dispatch 800 MHz Radio Project (Tim Smith)

In December of 2015 the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority (OCCDA) Policy Board approved a total replacement of our existing 25+ year old VHF radio system.  Ottawa County is moving to the State of Michigan MPSCS 800 MHz radio system.  This will give us modern technology and true interoperability with other agencies beyond our borders.  Since OCCDA made this decision, Allegan and Kent Counties have also made the decision to move to the State of Michigan MPSCS 800 MHz radio system.  One of the key items that was considered in committing to the project was that the State of Michigan has eliminated annual mic fees, which in the past had been $200 per radio annually.  They have moved to a one time activation fee for each radio which OCCDA will cover in this project for the initial equipment deployment.   

The entire $13.5 million dollar project is being funded through the Ottawa County dedicated 911 millage, and no additional user fees, or municipal charge backs will be used.

With the 800 MHz radio project, OCCDA is currently constructing a 10 site simulcast system that will provide excellent coverage in our service area.  In-building and on the street coverage levels have been guaranteed by Motorola to meet the needs of the Public Safety agencies, and citizens in our service area. OCCDA will be providing all Public Safety agencies with the initial 2,000 + radios for their respective departments. 

Construction of the system which includes 3 new radio towers (Jamestown, Conklin, and Grand Haven) is on schedule and we expect to activate the new system in December of 2017.  The system sites are partnerships of OCCDA with the following entities: Ottawa County, the City of Grand Haven, the City of Hudsonville, the City of Holland, Jamestown Charter Township, Chester Township, and the State of Michigan MPSCS radio system.

As the sites become active, testing with OCCDA staff and Public Safety agencies will take place.  We will not convert to the new system until all 10 sites are active.  We will keep our existing VHF system active for Fire Paging and other agencies that will still use some of the infrastructure until they upgrade their equipment.  In the future, once the infrastructure is in place, there will be opportunities for other non-Public Safety agencies (i.e. Road Commission, Parks, Schools, Public Works, Schools), to migrate to the system when they consider upgrading or replacing their existing radio systems.

OCCDA is in active discussions with Allegan and Kent Counties to explore new opportunities for backup and redundancy once all 3 Counties are up and running on the MPSCS 800 MHz system, which should be completed by year end 2018.

Drug Court Recognized as a National Mentor Court (Kevin Bowling)

The 20th Circuit Court is pleased to announce the Adult Drug Treatment Court (drug court), a specialty program for non-violent felony offenders with acute substance use disorders, has been selected as one of nine “mentor courts” in the United States by the United States Department of Justice and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.  This distinction is awarded to high-performing drug courts that demonstrate exemplary practices and operate with fidelity to the drug court model.

The drug court accepted its first participant in January 2005 and has since served over 250 people.  The drug court has a 67% graduation rate and a 75% retention rate, which is very good for the intensive requirements that participants must complete.  Furthermore, a study conducted by Grand Valley State University in 2014 demonstrates the adult drug treatment court significantly reduces new crime and repeated drug and alcohol use among high risk and high need offenders.  Notably, drug court participants were 73% less likely to commit a new crime within three years of discharge from the drug court when compared to a similar group of people who were sentenced to traditional probation.

Judge Feyen presides over the drug court. Andy Brown (Coordinator) and Emily Achterhof (Case Manager) are the two court staff who make the drug court work on the day-to-day.  Their positions are 100% grant funded with state and federal dollars.  A large part of Andy’s job is writing grant proposals, administering awarded grants, and managing relations with the drug courts nine partnering agencies.  Emily works hands-on with the participants and coordinates services with treatment providers, medical providers, probation officers, and recovery coaches.  Both Andy and Emily are very passionate about their jobs and committed to helping the participants in the drug court.

2017 is shaping up to be the most exciting year on record for the drug court.  In addition to being selected a national mentor court, staff will be presenting at four national conferences (one presentation with the American Society for Addiction Medicine, two presentations with the National Association for Drug Court Professionals, and one presentation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), and have several applications pending for statewide presentations.  Furthermore, two studies are being conducted that are examining recidivism outcomes and cost-effectiveness of the drug court.  Both studies are raising the national bar on research methodologies used and will be submitted for publication in academic journals. 

The drug court team is honored to have received recognition as a mentor court and, never ones to rest easy, are already exploring ways to keep making the drug court better.

step it up

Ottawa & Allegan County, lace up your walking shoes & get ready for a free 6-week walking challenge.

Ottawa and Allegan Parks and Recreation and Department of Public Health are teaming up to bring the community another Step it Up! Walking Challenge this spring. Participants will “virtually walk” 240 miles along regional trails in Michigan. The challenge begins on Monday, April 3!

This free, 6-week program is designed to help participants spring into fitness and get moving after a cold winter. Participants of all fitness levels are invited to join - weekly prizes are available.

Optional group walks will be offered for those interested in getting their weekly steps in with a group while checking out Ottawa & Allegan County Parks (schedule below). Each walk will be led by a naturalist guide. Different pace groups will be available.

Participants will be able to track their individual progress online, including their cumulative steps taken. The Ottawa County GIS Department designed a map to watch progress along the virtual trail. "When you login to track your steps, you'll be able to see the weekly goal markers and also track your individual progress. It was great to team up with GIS again to create an interactive component," said Parks spokesperson Jessica VanGinhoven. 

Ottawa County will also release its new and improved tracking system for participants that was developed over the winter. "Participants will be able to track their progress on a weekly basis, just like before, but we've added the option to track progress daily," said VanGinhoven. "The tracking program is also mobile-friendly, so you can record your activity from your phone. These changes were made based on participant feedback and should make tracking activity much easier."

Past participants also enjoyed the program. In a survey following the program walk participants reported: 

  • Great program to encourage people to exercise and use the county park system.
  • I loved this program! It motivated me to get walking again! I moved back to Holland two years ago and I learned a lot about the parks in Ottawa County through this program! I will be buying a pass and keep visiting our parks! Thank you very much!
  • It has helped us lose weight and feel so much better.
  • Prior to this challenge my daily steps were closer to 5,000 and since doing program I'm between 7,000-10,000 and some days way more. It challenged me to park further away and keep pedometer with me when walking around my house for a true count of my steps. Thanks for the motivation.

Registration is now open- register today!

URL:  Registration closes April 10.

Group Walk Schedule

April 8: Pine Bend Park, 10-11 AM

April 8: Outdoor Discovery Center, 10-11 AM

April 13: New Richmond Bridge Park, 10-11 AM

April 13: Rosy Mound Natural Area, 5:30-6:30 PM

April 22: Riley Trails, 10-11 AM

April 22: Bysterveld Park, 10-11 AM

April 27: Grand Ravines (North), 5:30-6:30 PM

May 2: Hemlock Crossing, 5:30-6:30 PM

May 6: Kirk Park, 3-4 PM

May 8: Allegan Sports Complex, 10-11 AM

May 11: Connor Bayou 5:30-7 PM - This walk will be followed by a family-friendly party at the Connor Bayou cabin!

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in West MI | HWA Task Force Update (Jessica Van Ginhoven)

While HWA is relatively new in West Michigan, New England has been fighting the pest for over a decade. On March 23, Allison Kanoti, a forest entomologist with Maine’s Forest Service presented at the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center at a public meeting. Kanoti shared her experience managing for HWA on the leading front of the East Coast invasion. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session. There were about 50 attendees. The presentation was streamed live via Facebook for those who were unable to attend. Over 350 people viewed the presentation online. It can be viewed here:

Important items of note from the presentation include the following:

  • An educated and engaged public is crucial to fighting the pest. A turning point in Maine’s fight against HWA was when the general public, in addition to land managers and biologists, began looking for it.
  • For many reasons, HWA is difficult to detect. The fight against HWA will be long-term.
  • Treatment is relatively easy and very successful. The challenge is surveying. A large effort is needed to establish the current distribution.
  • The pest spreads slowly and is treatable, but we cannot wait for our trees to die to take action. We must begin to survey for the pest now, even though most of our hemlocks, including those infected, may look healthy.

Kanoti shared that our passionate community, experience treating invasive species, and the potential for funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative set us up for success.

Please join us at the Nature Education Center for our next public meeting: Saturday, April 8 from 12-1 pm. Learn more at:


Parks Foundation Launch Party (Shannon Felgner)

parks foundation invite

April 20, 2017, 5-6:30 pm - brief program begins at 5:15

Nature Education Center, located in Hemlock Crossing County Park: 8115 W Olive Rd, West Olive 49460

Learn more about the Ottawa County Parks Foundation

Tech Forum

April 28, 2017 Ottawa County Innovation and Technology Forum (Dave Hulst)

I am excited to announce our Fourth Annual Forum.  This year's theme, Work Redefined:  Space, Culture and Technology, focuses on the changing work environment.  Haworth is sponsoring our keynote speaker:  Mr. Rex Miller.  Rex is an author, speaker and co-authored the book Change Your Space Change Your Culture.  Rex will be kicking off this year’s forum with The Culture Advantage | Creating a Workplace that Leads to Transformation and Growth.  The world surprises us weekly with new and novel challenges. Healthy and resilient cultures adapt through innovation. The most innovative organizations approach culture by design.  Our afternoon lead speaker is Mr. David Behen, Director of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and CIO for the State of Michigan.  David offers an insight into the technology priorities for the State and their efforts to keep Michigan on the leading edge.  Ms. Erin Frisch, Director for DHHS and Office of Child Support along with Mr. Keegan Malone, Policy Analyst for the Office of Child Support will co-present on the Alternative Work Location Program.  We’ll also have vendors present who can provide current information on products and services to meet your immediate needs. Finally, we’ll wrap up the day with Phil Bertolini, CIO and Deputy County Executive for Oakland County, who is back by popular demand, to bring technology in the public sector to a level you can appreciate addressing the day-to-day challenges we all face.  The registration site is open.  I’ve provided the link for more information and to register.  I hope to see you there.

Register here!

Strong Towns Workshop – May 18, 2017 (Paul Sachs)

strong towns

Ottawa County and the City of Grand Haven have teamed up to bring nationally-acclaimed speaker Charles Marohn to Grand Haven on May 18.  Charles will explore issues relating to development patterns, infrastructure, financial resiliency, and quality placemaking practices in local communities.  The all-day workshop will open up new ways of thinking about development by examining both new concepts and old-but-forgotten concepts.

Charles “Chuck” Marohn is the author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume I) and the forthcoming Volume II.  He is also the author of A World Class Transportation System, and you can hear his voice as the host of the “Strong Towns Podcast.”  He has spoken in dozens of towns and cities across North America.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, the cost for the workshop is $15 per person.  Workshop sponsors include the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Lakeshore Advantage, Midwest Construction Group Inc., Nederveld, Prein & Newhof, and Williams & Works.

Register Online

If you want to learn more about the Strong Towns Workshop, please contact the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department at or (616) 738-4852.

May 18
Main Event: 8:30am to 4:00pm. Lunch provided.
After-Hours Networking: 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Main Event:
Grand Haven Community Center
421 Columbus Avenue
Grand Haven, MI  49417

After-Hours Networking:  
Grand Armory Brewing
17 S. 2nd Street
Grand Haven, MI  49417

$15 per person
$25 per person after May 1
AICP continuing education credits available!
Register online.


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