Coming soon: a new and improved DeWitt

The storefront for the DeWitt Area Chamber of Commerce Photo taken by Shane Jones

The storefront for the DeWitt Area Chamber of Commerce
Photo taken by Shane Jones

By Shane Jones
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — Buildings in downtown DeWitt have been standing for many years, but the businesses have changed greatly. One building for example was once an old car dealership, now it is a restaurant. What was once a church, will now be a brewery.

As time goes on, the city of DeWitt is trying to change from the small city that it is known for into more of a modern city. Each year, the city and township management are constantly trying to help the city grow.

Unlike normal big city downtown areas, the downtown of DeWitt is very small and full of smaller and locally-owned businesses. Some businesses like Twiggies, owned by Beth Herendeen and also the Chairperson for the Downtown Development Authority have been around for a very long time and have endured some of the hardships that DeWitt faced in earlier times.

So why change the city?

“Recruitment of citizens is definitely a part of our plan in what were trying to accomplish. We work with both the city and township management to try and help our city grow,” Herendeen said.

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“Weapon-free School Zone” exists around DeWitt Public Schools

by Laina Stebbins
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — At a time in American society when gun violence has become familiar news and mass shootings dominate the media circuit, many communities across the United States have changed their gun safety policies to better respond to a possible threat. In DeWitt, it’s mean no guns in schools.

The rate of homicide by gun violence in the U.S., compared to developmentally and socioeconomically similar countries. Measured by deaths per 100,000 people. Data from Global Burden of Disease Study

In the Administrative Guidelines for DeWitt Public Schools, it is stated that “The Board of Education prohibits professional staff members from possessing, storing, making, or using a weapon in any setting that is under the control and supervision of the District for the purpose of school activities approved and authorized by the District.”

Adopted by the Board in February, this policy provides just a few exceptions for this ban, including weapons under the control of law enforcement.

Bruce Ferguson, police chief for the City of DeWitt, sees a need for these gun-free zones. Even more so, Ferguson sees a need for preventative measures and education to stop violence before it starts.

“My philosophy is to be proactive, not reactive,” said Ferguson. “We educate our teachers and administrators to be cognizant of the fact that mentally ill folks…can end up at schools. So we ask if you know someone or if you see signs, let someone know. That’s our approach, to be as proactive as we can.”

But DeWitt parent Sharon Lake does not necessarily agree with the administration on this issue.

“It is unconstitutional that teachers can’t have guns,” said Lake, adding that she believes allowing teachers to carry a firearm “would make things safer.”

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DeWitt has been improving its community thanks to the Master Plan

By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

IMG_6182DEWITT — The City of DeWitt, with its local businesses, pleasant parks, and quality schools, has seen a large increase in the amount of residential growth in the past 10 to 15 years, and their economy is expected to continue growing, despite Michigan’s overall slowed pace.

According to the “City of DeWitt Master Plan The Big Picture DeWitt 2010 to 2020,” this growth pressure is expected to continue to impact DeWitt, the DeWitt School District and other public services during the life of this Master Plan and beyond.

“The Master Plan is a document that depicts how the city would like the land to be used and developed over the course of time covered,” said DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss.

“The Planning Commission and City Council worked on the Master Plan for approximately 12 months and then by State Statute it is reviewed every five years,” said Coss. “The time it takes [to finish a Master Plan] really depends on if there are any amendments to the plan, typically 6-12 months.”

IMG_6187

The Wildflower Meadows development.

Since its creation, there are several aspects of DeWitt that have been either added or improved. According to Coss, there have been some residential as well as commercial developments.

“Two new residential subdivisions are in progress, The Oaks and Wildflower Meadows,” said Coss.

There is also a microbrewery that is currently trying to set up shop in a former church in downtown DeWitt, located at 115 North Bridge St.

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DeWitt is still not very diverse, but working on it

By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — The City of DeWitt has a clear lack of diversity and residents, city officials, school officials, and police have mixed reviews on why.

According to the 2010 census, about 95 percent of DeWitt’s population is white, 1.4 percent is black, 0.9 percent is Asian, and 0.4 percent is American Indian. DeWitt’s white population is above the national average of 72.4 percent. DeWitt’s black population is below the national average of 12.6 percent. The Asian population in DeWitt is below the national average of 4.8 percent. Also, the American Indian population in DeWitt is below the national average of 0.9 percent.

Distribution of race among the DeWitt population. Graph created by Zachary Manning. Data collected from 2010 census data.

Distribution of race among the DeWitt population. Graph created by Zachary Manning. Data collected from 2010 census data.

“DeWitt, as far as ethnic diversity, has a relatively low diversity rate. I am not sure why the diversity is not as evenly spread out as other communities,” said Daniel Coss, city administrator.

It is hard to pinpoint an exact cause for the low diversity rate, but some explanations could be that the city is small, there is a higher cost of living in DeWitt, the city is transitioning from agricultural to residential, and not a lot of people know a lot about DeWitt.

“In the early 1980’s it started making the change from agricultural to residential. It’s become more diverse since I moved here. We are a fairly new community, so as it matures, you will see diversity increase,” said Chief of Police, Bruce Ferguson.

“I think a lot of smaller towns tend to be like that,” said Cathy Ovenhouse, resident of DeWitt.

“The cost of living is higher here,” said Roger Somerville, resident of DeWitt.

DeWitt does have a little bit more diversity in the schools. According to the Superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools, John Deiter, the schools are approximately 85 percent white. DeWitt Public Schools did a study in 2012 to examine the perceptions of the staff and students in the district about diversity.

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In the city of DeWitt, crime is on vacation, but not the cops

The DeWitt Police Department does a great job with making sure they keep the city safe and crime rate low. Photo by Brendan Wilner

The DeWitt Police Department does a great job with making sure they keep the city safe and crime rate low. Photo by Brendan Wilner

By Brendan Wilner
The Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — In the city of DeWitt, everyone is working together to continue their low crime rates. The small population of DeWitt has allowed both city officials and the police department to not have to worry about the crime rate.

The city had 80 total arrests for both 2014 and 2015, according to City Administrator Dan Coss.

“We have a very proactive police department and our officers are very visible in the community. We have a 24/7 department,” said Coss.

Coss also mentioned that DeWitt has a very low crime rate at just 1.47 incidents for violent crime per 1,000 residents and 6.16 incidents of property crime per 1,000 residents. Those violent crimes include homicide, criminal sexual conduct, robbery and assault.

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Potholes aplenty at DeWitt Public Schools’ parking lots and access roads

By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT — DeWitt has a growing community, and part of that is due to their quality schools. When it comes to public schools, quality does not just entail the standard of education. The status of school facilities is just as important.

DeWitt Public Schools’ Schavey Road Elementary School, Herbison Woods School, Dewitt  Junior High, and DeWitt High School all share parking lots as well as roadways for access.

While everything is generally well-maintained, some of DeWitt Public Schools’ parking lots have developed a few areas of cracks and pot holes.

“We have taken a few calls about specific [complaints regarding the condition and/ or layout of the schools’ roadways and parking lots], but our maintenance department does a good job of patching the holes as quickly as possible,” said DeWitt Superintendent John Deiter.

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In the battle of bicyclists vs. drivers, a truce is coming in DeWitt

A city market located on South Bridge Street. Photo taken by Shane Jones.

A city market located on South Bridge Street. Photo taken by Shane Jones.

By Shane Jones
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITT— Picture a perfect world where people who are driving and people riding bikes could coexist. Sometimes, a very difficult thing to handle. Bikers sometimes cause traffic and drivers sometimes are not paying attention to their two-wheeled, motorless counterparts.

Starting in 2017, the city of DeWitt, DeWitt Township and also the Clinton County Road Commission will start a new project that will try to limit the traffic and increase the use of non- motorized traffic via a new bike trail. For some residents, it was a surprise to hear the plans behind this new project .

“I have not heard much about the new trail, I do know that there are many trails already in DeWitt. I think it is a great idea and people will enjoy it. I like how DeWitt is always trying to grow and make things better for the community,” resident Elliot Daniels said.

Clinton County Road Commission Director of Engineering Dan Armentrout gave a very detailed route of where the projected trail will be constructed.

“The proposed trail would run from Old (Route) 27 to Panther Drive at the school. The route is proposed to go along Herbison Road and would be constructed over a 3-year period,” Armentrout said. “The trail project would be built jointly with the resurfacing of Herbison Road and phased along with the Herbison Road projects.”

“At this time, we are looking at the three phases to be split:The first phase will start at Old 27 to the DeWitt Township Hall/Rambler Drive. The second phase will start at Township Hall and go to Turner Road. The last phase will start at Turner Road  and will end at the school.”

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