No near fix for police coverage “Dead Zone” in Ingham’s Out County

By Erin Eschels
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Onondaga Road in the rural areas of Ingham County

Onondaga Road in the rural areas of Ingham County

For two to three years, there has been approximately a 420 square-mile zone in Ingham County with little to no police coverage. With a total area of 560.94 square miles, the out-county areas account for almost three quarters of the total county.

Some larger cities and townships within the county, such as East Lansing and Meridian Township, have their own police departments. However many areas are left open for the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan State Police, whom are both responsible for the entire county. Due to the lack of money in these out-county townships, there are not enough resources to have this area covered efficiently.

“When people call 911, it’s directed to the sheriff or state police,” said Aurelius Township Supervisor Larry Silsby. “The sheriff does not have enough people. When there’s two deputies hauling prisoners and the others are off on something else, there’s just no one left.”

In 2011, the county had a vote whether or not to levy a fee for police coverage in the out county. It was ultimately voted down, yet “dead zone” residents are not satisfied.

“When I call 911, it takes a very long time, if at all, for someone to show up,” said Alaiedon Township resident and County Clerk Barb Byrum. “When normal people would call 911, a cop would show up and take the report. Not anymore. Call 911, they say come on down to Mason to file your police report.”

Though the out-county takes up a larger area of Ingham, most of the population is in the northwest corner in Lansing, East Lansing and Okemos. Since these larger cities are covered by their own departments, the majority voted down paying more for the sheriff’s services, leaving residents outside this area without adequate police coverage.

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Functional illiteracy rises in Lansing area

By Whitney Bunn
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Read to Succeed volunteer Allison Kramer works with student, Debora, on her reading skills.

Read to Succeed volunteer Allison Kramer works with Lansing area student Debora on her reading skills.

Can you read a pay stub? Understand the directions on a bottle of medicine? Read a menu?

Many adults in the Greater Lansing area can’t.

Adults who are functionally illiterate cannot read above a third-grade level and struggle with everyday tasks.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of adults in Lansing with a high school diploma has dropped by one percentage point, while those with college degrees have increased by two percentage point. The smart are getting smarter, as the amount of those who lack higher education continue to fall.

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Rebecca Klegon, a senior student in the College of Education at Michigan State University, is completing her pre-internship at Attwood Elementary School in the Lansing School District.

“I think there is a huge literacy problem,” she said.
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Animal Shelter hopes fun events will place more animals

By Erin Eschels
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Shelter volunteer Trisha Struck plays with an adoptable dog

Shelter volunteer Trisha Struck plays with an adoptable dog

With large numbers of shelter animals, the Ingham County Animal Shelter has been eager to find fun ways to show the community the animals it has to offer. Recently, the shelter hosted the Humanitarian Awards Banquet to honor those who dedicate a lot to the shelter. The next major event is the annual Woofer Walk 2014, where dogs and their owners participate in a 1.5-mile walk around Michigan State University’s campus to raise money for homeless animals. During June 13-14, the 30-hour Adopt-A-Fest will take place at Potter Park Zoo to bring awareness to the animals in need and increase adoption opportunities.

Besides the annual events, the shelter also has weekly events to showcase its animal residents, such as the Dog Walking Club and the mobile, on-site adoption appearances.

Humanitarian Awards Banquet

The annual awards banquet, held March 13, was a way for Ingham County to recognize members of the community that help with the animals.

“The media that helps and the volunteers are given awards, as well for certain things like the extreme foster award, or those that volunteer over 500 hours, or those in the community that help with monetary donations or advertising for free, things like that,” said Cinnamon Simpson, an awards selection committee member and adoption counselor for the shelter.

Woofer Walk 2014

“We have big things coming up, mainly the Woofer Walk on May 17,” said shelter volunteer Jackie Gates. “We walk on the MSU campus along the river, it’s really beautiful and it’s a fundraiser for the animal care fund, so it’s a great cause.”

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Ingham County in search for new director of animal control

By Chris Gray
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Donations, monetary and otherwise, make up a large portion of the shelter’s budget. An increased focus on fundraising was one of several ways former director Jamie McAloon-Lampman improved the shelter.

Donations, monetary and otherwise, make up a large portion of the shelter’s budget. An increased focus on fundraising was one of several ways former director Jamie McAloon-Lampman improved the shelter.

The Ingham County Animal Shelter is seeking a new director after Jamie McAloon-Lampman, the leader of the department for nine years, resigned Feb. 5 to take a new position out of state.

McAloon-Lampman implemented several changes to the department, which now features an on-site surgical suite, a new position to investigate animal cruelty and adoption events throughout the year. McAloon-Lampman also increased fundraising dollars and volunteer hours to levels the department has never experienced, leaving big shoes to fill for the next director.

The board of commissioners established a committee to search for a new director. Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook is the chairperson of the eight-person committee. Bahar-Cook said the county will look for qualified candidates to ensure the department retains its level of success.

“We are looking for a candidate that will maintain the quality of the stay for the animals and save as many as possible by trying to find a good home.” Bahar-Cook said.

Before working for the county, McAloon-Lampman worked for the humane society. As a result, the department fosters the qualities of a shelter instead of a typical “catch and kill” animal control.

“It is hard to go from a humane society background to animal control,” Bahar-Cook said. “We were very fortunate.”  Continue reading

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Commissioners pass resolution calling for equality in Michigan

By Chris Gray
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

A resolution calling for recognition of same-sex marriages in Ingham County was met with praise and opposition from commissioners.

A resolution calling for recognition of same-sex marriages in Ingham County was met with praise and opposition from commissioners.

The Ingham County board of commissioners had a 40-item agenda for their March 25 meeting that included a resolution calling on the state of Michigan and its attorney general to recognize the same-sex marriages performed in the county over the weekend.

 On March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Michigan’s voter-approved 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. At the time, Bernard’s ruling briefly allowed same-sex weddings. County Clerk Barb Byrum opened her office to wed same-sex couples on Saturday but was unable to continue during the week because a stay was issued a short time later – meaning the ban was back in effect.

Byrum took advantage of the public comment period during the meeting to discuss how Saturday’s opening of the County Courthouse became possible. Byrum said all but one employee was able to work on Saturday, which allowed her to issue marriage licenses before Monday, the next official business day.

“I couldn’t sleep that Friday night knowing that I would be making so many couples who have waited decades to marry their partner wait two more days,” Byrum said.  Continue reading

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County Parks Department eyes millage in November election

By Chris Gray
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Since 2009, the Ingham County Parks department has had less money appropriated toward its general fund every year. Funding for the 2012 fiscal year was $1.22 million which is 62% of the amount appropriated in 2009.

Since 2009, the Ingham County Parks department has had less money appropriated toward its general fund every year. Funding for the 2012 fiscal year was $1.22 million which is 62% of the amount appropriated in 2009.

The Ingham County Parks Department is eyeing a potential millage to help increase its budget to make up for shortfalls in past years and improve park services across the county. The millage is still in the early stages of planning but could be on the ballot for Nov 4.

For the millage proposal to make it to the ballot, it must first be approved by the County Services Committee. The proposal has been a topic of discussion at recent meetings and will continue to be. Once the County Services Committee has decided on language for the millage, it will move on to the county commissioners. The 14 commissioners have the final say on whether the millage should proceed to voters.

Because the millage is still in planning, there is no definite amount or timeframe yet. According to Willis Bennett, director of the Ingham County Parks Department, the amount could be equal or less than a previous millage proposal of 0.5 mills.

If passed at 0.5 mills, the millage would cost $50 for a homeowner of a house with a market value of $200,000, raising millions of dollars for the parks department. The length of the millage has not been decided.  Continue reading

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Ingham County 4-H, a springtime tradition

By Whitney Bunn
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping, and the cows are … moo-ing?

4-H clubs around the county are gearing up for the 160th Annual Ingham County Fair this August.

Ranging from livestock sales to dog agility to sewing, 4-H participants around the country make final decisions in early spring about the projects they will pursue at the fair.

The 4-H organization emphasizes hands-on learning, promoting teamwork, responsibility and cooperation, said Carol Fanson, leader of the Aurelius 4-H Club in Ingham County.

Fanson, an active member of Ingham County’s 4-H community for more than 50 years, manages a club of more than 75 members.

“At this point in the spring, it’s time for the kids to decide what they’re doing,” said Fanson. Continue reading

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Illiteracy in Ingham County is a ‘huge problem’

By Whitney Bunn
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

How does literacy in Ingham County stack up?

According to Andrew Falk, not very well.

Falk is an intern for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition (CALC), a nonprofit organization that specializes in promoting literacy growth in the Lansing area.

Falk said that around 35 percent of Lansing citizens are functionally illiterate, meaning they have trouble with basic reading, writing, speaking and computational skills – things like reading a menu or understanding a paycheck.

The Downtown Lansing branch of the Capital Area District Libraries boasts a large children's section to foster literacy learning.

The Downtown Lansing branch of the Capital Area District Libraries boasts a large children’s section to foster literacy learning.

Most literate adults are unaware of the major problem of illiteracy in the United States, said Falk.

“We have a variety of programs. We encompass all age groups into the literacy bracket because everybody in Lansing basically needs help,” Falk said.

Rebecca Klegon, a senior student in the College of Education at Michigan State University, is completing her pre-internship at Attwood Elementary School in the Lansing School District.

“I think there is a huge literacy problem,” she said.

Working with a sixth-grade class for the 2013-2014 school year, Klegon notes that nearly three-quarters of her students read below the standard reading level for sixth-graders.

Klegon said most of her students come from low-income families. “I don’t feel like they have enough opportunities to read at home,” she said. Continue reading

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After perfect year, Animal Shelter close to breaking euthanization streak

By Erin Eschels
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Volunteer Jackie Gates works at a pet adoption event at Petco in Lansing Charter Township, Michigan

Volunteer Jackie Gates works at a pet adoption event at Petco in Lansing Charter Township, Michigan

The Ingham County Animal Shelter went all of 2013 without putting down a single animal because of overcrowding. This year, the shelter is struggling to find room with animals coming in every single day, said Director Jamie McAloon-Lampman.

Last year, the shelter took in a little more than 3,300 animals, which was less than normal. In 2012, with more than 3,500 animals coming through the shelter, staff was forced to put down almost 150 animals due to the lack of space. However, this year’s peak summer season of the shelter is quickly approaching. In May through August, the number of animals brought in daily is overwhelming for the shelter’s staff and volunteers.

In hopes of continuing their streak of no animals being put down, volunteers at the shelter run mobile adoption events for on-site adoptions just about every Saturday to increase awareness of the animals.

“These programs that are all funded by donations and all handled with volunteer labor, are what’s actually reducing those numbers of unwanted animals in the community,” said McAloon-Lampman. “That’s what you have to do, reduce that number and then your shelter won’t have to work as hard at finding homes.”

For these weekly events, “the shelter will send some animals that they believe might do well in the mobile area,” said adoption counselor Cinnamon Simpson. “Most of the time, if there are animals in foster, this is the only exposure they get other than the websites.”

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Winter leaves roads in tough shape

By Whitney Bunn
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

With this season’s whale of a winter, county commissioners have had to deal with the county’s roads on top of their regular responsibilities.

This past winter season wreaked havoc on Ingham County roads.

This past winter season wreaked havoc on Ingham County roads.

Last year, Ingham County eliminated its independent road commission, opting to absorb the county’s road duties into its own agenda.

In February of 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing a county’s government to absorb their county road commissions with the hope that this plan would bring efficiency and accountability to local governments.

At the time the bill was signed, Michigan had 81 county road commissions – nearly half were not accountable to the county government.

Ingham County became one of the first counties in the state to absorb its previously independent road commission.

A very mild winter greeted the bill in its first year of adoption. Now in its second year, the severity of winter has struck without relent, and the Ingham County Board of Commissioners is facing the reality of winter and its side effects on county roads. Continue reading

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