Ottawa County Administrator's Digest

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Alan G. Vanderberg, County Administrator
July 28, 2017

Ottawa County Customer Service Update (Misty Cunningham)

Ottawa Way Video

The Disney Ottawa Way training sessions were meant to provide a culture change in the organization to become a more customer-centric culture. The training also set the expectation of a customer service standard with an Ottawa County Story (we hope you enjoy the video of our story)Customer Service Value Statement and Codes of Conduct.  

After over 1,000 Ottawa County employees went through the training, the culture shift here at the County was evident. The original plan was to continue the Disney Ottawa Way training twice a year for all new hires but we realized that the culture change type of training wasn’t needed for new hires. The need is for a training that welcomes new employees into the culture as well as provide training to all employees on what excellent customer service looks like in the public sector. 

Human Resources worked with the Customer Service Team to develop a training which provides employees with skills on how to deliver excellent customer service here at Ottawa County. The Team participated in a pilot of the training in March and were all very pleased. The first Customer Service Excellence: The Ottawa Way Training was rolled out in June and was well attended. This training will continue to be offered as a normal class in Ottawa County's Training Schedule. This class is designed for all employees, even if they participated in the Disney Ottawa Way training.

Ottawa County Honors Employees for Customer Service

Veronica Garcia

Join us in congratulating Veronica Garcia from Community Mental Health and Meri-Beth Brouwer from the Sheriff’s Office, who have been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipients for the first quarter of 2017. You can read the nominations which earned each recipient an award plus learn more about them at

“Veronica is pleasant and caring with helping the consumers we serve. Veronica consistently keeps the family services team at Community Mental Health organized and running smoothly," said Teresa LaHaie, Mental Health Program Coordinator. "For over 25 years she has used her sense of humor and gentle spirit to generate an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone with whom she interacts.”

“Deputy Meri-Beth Brouwer always takes that little extra step in the work and service she provides to the citizens of Ottawa County," said Sheriff Steve Kempker. "She represents herself and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office in an energetic and positive attitude and professional manner. Meri-Beth is known for getting it done, she is a true asset to Ottawa County.” 

Implemented in 2012, the Customer Service initiative is one of the County’s Four C’s, along with Communication, Cultural Intelligence and Creativity. Customers can nominate an Ottawa County employee for an Outstanding Customer Service Award at

Meri-Beth Brouwer

Ottawa County – Grand Valley – Township Collaboration Meetings (Al)

Over the past 2-3 years we have had a few projects with multi-jurisdictional responsibility and participation. The experience was at times, a little difficult and a lack of coordination and communication was evident. I serve on the Grand Valley Metro Council Board of Directors with Tom Butcher, attorney for Grand Valley, and I suggested that we put a group together to meet a couple of times per year. The purpose is to build better relationships and provide a look ahead at what various governments and agencies are planning that intersect with each other. Tom Butcher and President Haas liked the idea. We then put together an invitation list including the following:

  • Ottawa County:

Sheriff’s Office
Parks & Recreation
Water Resources Commissioner
Planning & Performance Improvement

  • Ottawa County Road Commission
  • Allendale Township
  • Blendon Township
  • Tallmadge Township
  • Georgetown Township
  • Grand Valley State University

The first meeting was held at the Fillmore Complex on May 30 and there was a good discussion. The group plans to meet twice per year and move the meeting to different locations. Georgetown Township agreed to host the next meeting. Chair DeJong has agreed to participate in these meetings on behalf of the Board of Commissioners.

Take the Connected Ottawa County Technology Survey


Ottawa County is working to better understand the availability of high-speed internet access countywide. Help us by completing a short survey! We are looking for responses from Ottawa County residents, governments, business owners, and institution and organization leaders.

Subscribe to the Sheriff’s Office Monthly Newsletter

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is now distributing monthly e-news. We encourage to subscribe online and check out the past edition

M23.1k Run and 4 Miler (Shannon Felgner)

Registration is OPEN for the M23.1k Run and 4 Miler scheduled for October 21. The purposes of the event are to raise funds for West Michigan trails and promote the trails; advocate for wellness; build community; and showcase West Michigan as a healthy, active, growing and thriving community. There have been some positive changes to the run this year.  We have a great team planning the event, including staff from the Parks, Public Health, Community Mental Health, Sheriff’s Office, Road Commission, MDOT and others. We also are hosting the event at the beautiful Connor Bayou County Park. Finally, along with the 23.1k run, a 4-mile event was added. Space is limited to the first 300 runners. Register early. Volunteers will also be needed on the day of the event. Opportunities to sponsor the event and the trail projects are also still available. 

m231 2017

Michigan Sheriff’s Meritorious Service Award (Sheriff Kempker)

L to R, Sheriff Steve Kempker, Detective Kerri Cannata, Undersheriff Valerie Weiss

Detective Kerri Cannata received the Michigan Sheriff’s Meritorious Service Award on Sunday 6/12/17 at the Michigan Sheriff’s Conference.

Det. Cannata was selected from the nominations that were submitted to the Michigan Sheriff’s Awards Committee.  The review board of Sheriff’s from around Michigan selected Det. Cannata. The award was for Det. Cannata work in solving an extensive case involving swatting calls in Michigan and around the United States.

This case in which Det. Cannata was nominated for began in late 2014 and continued into 2016. This case involves multiple incidents in Ottawa County and in other locations in Michigan and across the U.S.

The case involved SWATTING CALLS with bomb threats and threats to kill people and shoot up locations, a call to an FBI agent’s home threating to kidnap and slaughter his family.  The SWATTING also was focused on several schools in Ottawa County, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, 2 local TV stations, 3 major airport causing shut down and full security alerts, 2 of the airports were the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo airports.  This involved many law enforcement agencies across the U.S., effected 1000’s of civilians, interrupted daily activity of schools, universities, TV stations, several airlines and cost large expenses to all the victims. There were also large expenses to law enforcement for their responses and investigations, All of this after a backdrop of several mass shootings in the U.S.  The suspect in the case called himself, Ransom, Ransom the terrorist and Ransom the thug.

Ransom over time became more and more bold, actually calling into the sheriff’s office several times taunting the detectives.  The FBI had joined in the investigation and were unable to track the calls and computer connection that was being used.  Det. Cannata would not give up, she spent countless hours tracking info, in chat rooms, executing search warrants and tracing back a lot of IP address and other investigative information looking for a needle in a haystack.  Det. Cannata was able to break the case when the suspect ordered a  piece of electronic equipment out of California, which gave leads at to an address overseas and then  Det. Cannata was able to finally ID the suspect, who was in the London England area.  The FBI and Britain’s North West Regional Organized Crime Unit had formed a joint task force.  Without the information that was developed by Det. Cannata it was possible the suspect may have not been caught.  Ransom was located and arrested without incident.  Ransom was charged and convicted quickly in England on terrorism related charges.

The FBI said that Det. Cannata’s work was a major component of our work group and her forensic analysis and investigative skills, lead directly to Sales ID and arrest, without her determination it is a safe assumption that Sales would not have been identified.  Kerri congratulations and thank you for the work that you do for the victims of crime, the citizens of Ottawa County and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Parks and Recreation Updates

sus bridge 2

Parks Foundation Launched and Suspension Bridge Project Announced (John Scholtz)

A new non-profit organization has formed to support Ottawa County Parks and other entities in Ottawa County with similar goals.  The new Ottawa County Parks Foundation celebrated its official launch as a 501(c)(3) on Thursday, April 20.

Since the first millage passed in 1996, the county park system has evolved. Twenty years ago the majority of millage funds were used to purchase land and expand the parks system, ensuring that there would be enough greenspace for all county residents to enjoy. Ottawa County Parks is still making strategic land purchases today, but by design, the majority of millage revenue has gradually shifted to maintaining and operating park  properties and facilities. Wooden stairs and roofs require replacement over time and the Parks Department is committed to high quality maintenance of its facilities.  Those commitments leave less funding for new initiatives.

Parks leadership has always believed in diversifying its funding sources as much as possible and in leveraging the tax dollars it receives.  A good example of that is with state and federal grants and Ottawa County Parks has a strong track record in securing grant dollars to build the park system.  Another great example of outside support for the park system is volunteering. An incredibly dedicated group of volunteers stretches the millage dollars. Last year alone, volunteers donated over 10,000 hours of their time to improving and maintaining parks throughout the county. 

Although grants and volunteers have been used extensively to leverage tax dollars, use of private funds to enhance the park system has been limited until recently.  A number of citizens have approached the Parks Department in recent years about donating funds for park projects, but many of those people indicated a preference to donate to a non-profit rather than a government organization. That interest is a big reason why the Parks Foundation was formed.  The Parks Foundation Board believes private contributions can provide the margin of excellence for the parks system.    The Parks Foundation serves as a vehicle for people to make a gift that will benefit the park system and residents of Ottawa County far into the future.

To demonstrate the impact private donations can have on the park system, the Parks Commission made a major announcement at its launch event: the construction of a suspension bridge at Grand Ravines Park. "When the master plan was created for Grand Ravines, those beautiful deep ravines made it challenging to design a viable hiking trail system. We were fortunate to get a permanent trail easement donated by neighboring landowners Ray and Alma Statema, which helped in navigating the steep terrain. Crossing a major ravine with a trail was unavoidable and a suspension bridge was added into the plan, but we knew it was an amenity that may never be financially feasible," said David VanGinhoven, President of the Parks Commission and board member of the OCPF.

"I am very pleased to announce that Beatrice Aldrink Idema, known by most as Bea, has very generously donated $350,000 -  all of the funds needed to construct a suspension bridge across this major ravine allowing a trail connection between the north and south sides of Grand Ravines Park," announced VanGinhoven.

The suspension bridge will be 250 feet long and 70 feet in the air. It will be fully ADA accessible, with a paved path leading to one side of the bridge. The cost of this pathway will be covered by yet another generous donor – again, Ray and Alma Statema. 

Mark Oppenhuizen, a board member of OCPF and founding member of the Ottawa County Parks Commission also commented, "The suspension bridge and the trail leading to it are a perfect example of how private funds can provide the margin of excellence to help the park system go from good to great." 

Donations for the suspension bridge are just the latest example of donor support for Grand Ravines in recent years.  The ravine overlook was built with a gift from the Aldrink family. The dog park has received support from park users, Chow Hound Pet Supplies, the Hudsonville-Jenison Community Foundation, local veterinarians, and many others.  

Construction on the bridge will begin this spring. The bridge is anticipated to be ready for the public to use in fall of 2017.  More information on the Ottawa County Parks Foundation is available at www.

sus bridge
sus bridge 3
Photo of suspension bridge of similar design and construction

Paddle Nation Grant Funds Kayak Programs (Kristen Hintz, Ottawa County Parks)

In April, Friends of Ottawa County Parks (FOOCP) applied for money through the Paddle Nation Grant Program to help provide opportunities for adolescent youth to get out and enjoy the local waterways through kayaking trips.  FOOCP partnered with Ottawa County Parks, through its Nature Education Center, and GR Paddling, a West Michigan kayak livery business, to plan a comprehensive kayaking program that would introduce underserved populations to the sport of kayaking by providing the equipment, instruction and guidance needed for positive kayaking experiences along the Pigeon River and Grand River.  

Parks staff connected with Heights of Hope Leadership program and three Boys and Girls Clubs of Holland (Northside, Southside and Holland Heights) to organize kayak trips along the Pigeon and Grand River for 64 kids and their mentors.   The $2,496.00 granted will cover the cost of the equipment, instruction and guides as well as an additional six fully funded scholarships to an Ottawa County Parks kayaking camp.  Friends of Ottawa County Parks, Paddling GR, and Ottawa County Parks staff will have donated a total of 1/3 of the project costs through matching donations of time, and funds including an additional 6 fully funded kayak camp scholarships from FOOCP. 

Trips for the Heights of Hope Leadership group begin July 26 and 28 followed by the Boys and Girls Club Trips the first week of August.    According to Ivan Levin, Deputy Director of the Outdoor Foundation, the purpose of the Paddle Nation Outdoor Grant is “to connect young people to the rivers, streams, lakes and oceans and hopefully plant a seed that will result in a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts  and environmental stewards.“   

It's Time to STEP IT UP! (Kristina Wieghmink & Amy Sheele)

step it up

Judges Journal Article (Al)

Judge Brad Knoll, Chief Judge of the Ottawa District Court, wrote an essay this past Spring for the Judges Journal entitled The Swearing In.  I found it to be an enjoyable and informative read.

Ottawa County Audit (Karen Karasinski)

The County received an unqualified option, the highest opinion available, from the independent auditing firm of Vredeveld Haefner, LLC for the Nine-Month Period Ending September 30, 2016.  Local governments are required to complete a set of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles and audited by a firm of licensed certified public accountants.  Last year the Board of Commissioners consolidated all financial operation of the County to a single reporting year of October 1 to September 30.  The nine-month ending audit will transition the County to the new fiscal year.  Click the link below for a full copy of the report.


dis of the year

2016 Ottawa County Central Dispatch Dispatcher of the Year (Tim Smith)

Congratulations Elvita Lewandowski on being selected as the Ottawa County Central Dispatch 2016 Dispatcher of the year.  Elvita has been with Ottawa County Central Dispatch since 2006.

Important News from the Department of Public Health (Kristina Wieghmink)

Public Health Logo
tick removal

Ticks Spread Diseases - How to Prevent Tick Bites

In Michigan, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease. It is spread by an infected blacklegged (deer) tick. Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs that feed during the spring and summer months. Nymphs can be difficult to see since they are approximately the size of a poppy seed. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. “Prompt removal of ticks is the best method to decrease the chance of Lyme disease,” said Dr. Paul Heidel, the medical director of the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “Seek medical attention if you develop a fever, a rash, severe fatigue, facial paralysis, or joint pain within 30 days of being bitten by a tick.”

The most important way to protect against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites.

Avoid direct contact with ticks

  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Create tick-safe zones in your yard. Keep patios and play areas away from vegetation, regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and brush around home, place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas, and use a chemical control agent.

Use insect repellent

  • Apply repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin.
  • Treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks and tents) with products containing 0.5% permethrin.  Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying any repellents.

Find and remove ticks

  • Bathe or shower after being outside in tick-infested areas (preferably within two hours).
  • Conduct a full-body tick check (under arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between legs, around waist and especially in hair).
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, and then attach to a person later. Use tick prevention products on your pets.
  • Wash clothing in hot water and dry on high heat after being outside to kill ticks.
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water.

 “Tick checks are recommended after any hike, but especially one along the lake shore,” said John Scholtz, the director of Ottawa County Parks & Recreation.

Guide - Ticks and your health: Preventing tick-borne illness in Michigan

Fact sheet - How to prevent tick bites when hiking and camping

meet up eat up

Meet Up and Eat Up Summer Food Service Program

The Meet Up and Eat Up Summer Food Service Program was created to provide anyone 18 years of age and younger free nutritious meals during long school vacations. The program is available at locations throughout Ottawa County; serving breakfast, lunch and/or snacks during the summer months.

“Meet Up and Eat Up is a great way to ensure all children receive healthy and nourishing meals, even when school is out of session. This important program is free and open to all children 18 years and younger. We work with a variety of community partners to provide activities at many sites as well. It's exciting to offer food, educational enrichment, physical activity and social engagement throughout the summer months,” said Amy Sheele, health educator with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a Child Nutrition Program that uses meal patterns similar to those used in other federal child nutrition programs. The SFSP is operated at the local level by program sponsors and is administered in Michigan by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Office of School Support Services. To receive meals at a Meet Up and Eat Up site, participants must be 18 years of age or younger or (regardless of age) disabled. An individual is determined to be mentally or physically disabled by the MDE or a local public educational agency (school district or public school academy).

Click for Ottawa County locations & times flyer

For more information and locations throughout Michigan, go to

meet up eat up 2

Quarterly Road Commission Meeting Notes (Keith Van Beek)

Road Commission - Jim Miedema, Brett Laughlin, Pat Staskiewicz and Zach Russell

County - Greg DeJong, Joe Baumann, Don Disselkoen, Al Vanderberg, Keith Van Beek and Paul Sachs 

Road Commission monthly report reviews:

  • Review of 5-page document for various programs for the year - primary roads, local roads, bridge improvements, drainage improvements, millage projects, cape seal resurfacing, gravel road surfacing, seal coat resurfacing, gravel road reconstruction and subdivision resurfacing.  Have some additional projects because of about $700,000 savings from budget for winter maintenance.
  • Michigan Transportation Fund report review - first year if increased funding and hitting estimates of increased funding.  Additional handout explains the changes in statewide funding after legislative package signed end of 2015, and projected increases going through 2021. 
  • Draft of proposed projects in 2019 through 2021 subject to the road commission planning process and continued state funding increases.
  • OCRC continues meetings with MDOT about maintenance contracts, both in winter and summer.  Discussing a variety of issues with the historic arrangement to sign a new contract with improved and more effective and efficient terms for both parties.
  • M-231 update - Vanderberg described interest in property in Zeeland Township that remains very important to where proposed M-231 would connect to I-96.  Trying to work with MDOT to secure the property to keep options open moving forward.  Resolution of support is being sought by MDOT from involved local units to move forward on continued planning and phasing of the project.

Public Utilities Updates:

  • Michigan Water Environment Association interested in presentation at future MAC conference regarding wastewater treatment options and energy.  Pat left a proposal paper for Al to review and comment.
  • Water systems update - Pat met with Grand Rapids and Wyoming water systems, looking at a study to do an emergency interconnect where the two systems have .  Also started meeting rotation of the operators from the two systems.  Coopersville is looking to pursue improvements to their booster station, evaluating now.
  • Grandville sewer projects active currently in conjunction with Georgetown, Hudsonville and Jamestown.  Implemented a new rate making model and working towards a new contract of partners with Grandville.
  • SAW (asset management for wastewater) grants are generating several projects throughout the county and various systems.
  • Water asset management plans are also being required statewide so all those systems are also preparing that work for the end of the year.

OCRC introduced and group discussed Zach Russell as new person to direct internal and external communications.  Initiatives expected to include; website, Facebook and Twitter, newsletter and other publications.  


Click here for the most recent update, for older updates click here