Residents will vote on renewing county health millage

By Alexa McCarthy

Ingham County Chronicle

The Ingham Health Plan is asking county residents to vote to renew their millage on the Nov. 4 election.

The proposal seeks to continue a .52-mill levy (52 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) until 2019. The millage would cost an owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 only $26 per year.  If levied in full, the millage will raise $3.4 million in the first year. The millage funds the Ingham Health Plan which is seeks to provide health-care for lower-income county residents.

The millage was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012 as a way to address the gap between eligibility for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. The health services millage pays for no-frills medical care for residents who earn less than $28,000, are not eligible for Medicaid, the state’s Healthy Michigan plan, do not receive insurance through an employer or cannot afford to buy private health insurance.

While the millage may only be a few years old, the Ingham Health Plan has been serving uninsured county residents since 1998. The slogan for the plan is “A Hand Up, Not a Handout,” and is seen as a safety net.

Alex Vanis, owner of the Coral Gables restaurant in East Lansing, says that many of his employees get their insurance through the county. “Usually, I don’t vote for millages,” said Vanis. “But I understand this one, because health insurance is expensive and we can’t afford to provide it for our employees.” He says that he will be voting yes to reauthorize the millage because he says understands the importance of a healthy workforce for not only his own business but also the local economy.

Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid in Michigan, thousands are still unable to afford basic health care and services. Officials project that health insurance premiums in Michigan are to rise by 9 to 15 percent in 2015.

If the millage is passed the county will continue to help pay for access to doctors visits, generic medications, preventative testing and treatment for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses. According to officials, between Oct. 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 the Ingham Health Plan provided more than 6,000 preventative consultations and treatments such as mammograms, colonoscopies, blood tests and pap smears.

Lansing has a large immigrant and refugee population that benefit from the millage. Guadalupe Angelina Ramirez-Ortega has worked at the Coral Gables as a dishwasher for six years and just recently switched to the Ingham Health Plan. She speaks little English and because of the plan has been able to a doctor that speaks Spanish at Cristo Rey Family Health Center. Speaking in Spanish, Ramirez-Ortega said, “The plan and the services are very good for me and my family. Being able to to go to a Spanish-speaking doctor is very helpful.”

Guadalupe Angelina Ramirez-Ortega says that the Ingham Health Plan has helped her gain the medical care she needs that she would otherwise not receive.

Guadalupe Angelina Ramirez-Ortega says that the Ingham Health Plan has helped her gain the medical care she needs that she would otherwise not receive.

By Ingham County residents voting to reauthorize the millage,  it also saves money for the insured. The plan seeks to decrease the demand for expensive emergency room services that uninsured residents often have to go through to get medical treatment. These services often go uncompensated and

according to officials, county families with health insurance end up paying approximately $1,000 per year in uncompensated care costs. The plan seeks to control these costs by giving the uninsured options from the ER.

Residents will not be paying an additional tax, rather it is extending a program already in place and helping thousands receive medical care.

 

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Fun Events at Potter Park Zoo

By Akshita Verma
Ingham County Chronicle

The Potter Park Zoo, on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing, has many family oriented events coming up in the fall and winter.
The main events of the fall season are Boo at the Zoo and Tailgate for the Animals, and the main events for winter are Wonderland of Lights and a beer and wine tasting event.

Potter Park Zoo let's their peacocks wander aroudn outside of their cages.

Potter Park Zoo let’s their peacocks wander aroudn outside of their cages.


The Potter Park Zoo isn’t like other zoos, according to Special Event Coordinator Jen Rostar.
“We will never be the biggest zoo around,” said Rostar. “The Potter Park Zoo is focused on wildlife conservation and education programs, and we work with many endangered animals.”
Therefore, most of these events are fundraisers for the zoo.
The Potter Park Zoo focuses on children from kindergarten all the way to Michigan State University students. These education programs, according to Rostar, help bring awareness on caring for animals, especially endangered species.
The first event coming up is Tailgate for the Animals. The Potter Park Zoo website says that the event is on Oct. 4, 1 to 3 p.m. According to Rostar, Oct. 4 is also the day that the residents of Ingham County visit the zoo for free.
The Tailgate for the Animals is an enrichment event. According to Rostar, “animals in the zoo are not able to use all of the intellect and anatomy that they would be able to use in the wild.”
Tailgate for the Animals is an event that will create new scenarios for the animals in the zoo.
According to Rostar, a lot of research goes into the enrichment events.
“We might make an icicle block with a bone inside for the lions, so they are able to use their claws and their intellect to get the bone out,” said Rostar. “For the meerkats, we might make a paper mache package with treats inside.”
Boo at the Zoo is a family oriented event that is all about Halloween.
A child looking at two river otters at Potter Park Zoo.

A child looking at two river otters at Potter Park Zoo.


Boo at the Zoo runs on Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26. According to the Potter Park Zoo website, there will be a straw maze, live animal presentations, hayrides, and the Boo Tunnel.
According to Rostar, the Boo Tunnel is an underground tunnel that the zoo decorates with Halloween decorations to make it scary for the children.
Nov. 21 to Dec. 28 is Wonderland of Lights, an event.
The zoo will be decorated with holiday lights and decorations.
On Dec. 3 will be a beer and wine tasting fundraiser.
According to Rostar, proceeds from all of the events will go towards the zoo and helping all of the animals.

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Potter Park Zoo Animal Hospital Set for a Makeover

By Alexa McCarthy

Ingham County Chronicle

Architects from Design Level Architecture revealed the phase one design plan for a new animal health-care and teaching facility to the Potter Park Zoo Board On Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Plans for a new health-care facility are part of the zoo’s master plan conceived in 2010. According to the zoo’s website the plan’s goal is “to improve not just our exhibits and our grounds, but our education and conservation missions, our visitor experience, and our sustainability.”

The original designs for the zoo's Master Plan in 2010. The location of the proposed heath care facility has since moved to the west side of the park.

The original designs for the zoo’s Master Plan in 2010. The location of the proposed heath care facility has since moved to the west side of the park.

Zoo Director Sheri Graham said that the original plan was to work on the new Great Lakes collection first, but since that developed in 2012 the zoo decided to move the health-care facility higher on the to-do list. While the zoo currently has a center to treat sick animals, it’s no bigger than a classroom and contains X-ray, treatment and surgery all in one room. “We’ve had as many as 30 people in there working on a tiger!” said Graham. “And it gets crowded.”

The updated plan designs a whole new building that will be located on a hill, west of the zoo entrance. “We wanted to make sure the hospital is on the perimeter of the zoo campus and has significant space, so that we can take an infectious animal to MSU without dragging it through the whole zoo.”

While the board may want to keep sick animals a safe distance from the rest of the zoo, the design does not hide the facility. The building will also be used as  teaching. he new design emphasizes  visitor engagement, with windows to treatment and surgery rooms that create a controlled viewing environment.

The design is a collaboration between C2AE architecture, engineering and planning firm out of Lansing and Design Level Architecture from Columbus, Ohio.

Tracy Kameoka of Design Level Architecture presents the new design for the health care facility. She said working with the coexisting site was one of the important elements of creating the design.

“The main reason this team was chosen was for their experience and expertise in animal care facilities,” said Graham. Design level has worked on 11 zoo projects including projects in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.

“Animal hospitals have to be safe for humans and animals,” said Douglas Barga, an architect on the project. “And those two things often challenge each other.” Compared to the zoo’s current one-room facility the new design has multiple rooms for surgery, X-ray, quarantine and animal holding rooms. The design is similar to a human hospital in the sense that it creates “straight-forward circulation” that emphasises efficiency and safety.

Something that zoo visitors may not know is that before a new animal can be released and live with other animals in an exhibit, it must be quarantined for 30 days to ensure it is virus-free.  Design Level wanted to accommodate the zoo’s need for special quarantine rooms.

Another thing the firm focused on was the existing site and the natural beauty within the park. “This zoo is unique because it is in a park, with a view and we had opportunity to take advantage of that,” said Kameoka. “It is unlike other zoos that are contained within a city.”

The building design is meant to co-exist with the natural surroundings and the firm wanted to create a continuation between the outside and inside elements as a way to invite visitors in. The firm emphasized that visitor engagement with treatment rooms was extremely important to the design and a way to encourage education.

While the back of the building will be used as a loading dock and animal entranceway, the front outdoor patio will be used as a space to rent out for parties and receptions.

Kameoka said, “Every zoo project we work on is more innovative than the last, and this will be one of the most functionally efficient plans out there.”

While the design mock-ups are not for public display yet, the zoo is anticipating moving forward with the design in spring 2015.

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County marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Sara Marino looks on as friends and families of victims share their stories at a candlelight vigil, hosted by the Michigan Women’s Historical Center.

Sara Marino looks on as friends and families of victims share their stories at a candlelight vigil, hosted by the Michigan Women’s Historical Center.

By Alexa McCarthy
Ingham County Chronicle

Sexual assault has seen a spark in public interest that is partially due to recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer that has thrust the issue into the public eye. It is a problem that many, including Mary Keef, executive director at Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, feel will no longer be brushed aside as it has in the past.

Evolved from the “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 and conceived by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed in 1987.

Sara Marino looks on as friends and families of victims share their stories at a candlelight vigil, hosted by the Michigan Women’s Historical Center.

“It’s going to be more than just purple ribbons for us to make this big change and you’re witnessing that right now,” said Keef. “She explained that it’s not about the money, but rather the public awareness and a call for change that puts stricter policies in place.
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Community and political activist leaves legacy

Photo:  The New Citizens Press

Photo: The New Citizens Press

By Cameron Billes
Ingham County Chronicle

The people of Ingham County suffered after the loss of an idealized mother, grandmother and friend.

Mary Lou Pittman, a community and political activist, passed away Sept. 16.

Pittman was born and raised in Lansing, and had spent more than 40 years helping the Ingham County community.

Pittman’s political career began in 1967, when she helped catapult Joel Ferguson into becoming the first African-American on the Lansing City Council. It was not until helping Ferguson that Pittman caught the political bug.
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Animal control officer wins national award

By Alexa McCarthy
Ingham County Chronicle

Ingham County Animal Control Officer Jodi LeBombard was recognized at the Ingham County board of commissioner’s Sept. 23 meeting for receiving the National Animal Control Association’s Officer of the Year Award.

Commissioner Bahar-Cook presents LeBombard with her award.

Commissioner Bahar-Cook presents LeBombard with her award.

The honor is bestowed on an individual for outstanding achievement and exceptional performance in the animal care and control field. LeBombard was nominated by fellow shelter staff members at Ingham County Animal Control for her performance in 2013.

After the board of commissioners approved a resolution to recognize LeBombard’s achievement, Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook, representing District 2, introduced LeBombard.

Commissioner Bahar-Cook presents LeBombard with her award.
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Absentee ballot applications due Nov. 1

By Cameron Billes
Ingham County Chronicle

Are you ready to vote in the Nov. 4 election?

The deadline for voter registration is Monday, Oct. 6. If you plan on voting in the November election, you must be registered. To vote with an absentee ballot, you can fill out a request form and mail it in or hand it in to your local city or township clerk’s office. The deadline to submit an absentee application is Saturday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m.

Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk, said “It’s imperative for people to exercise their right to vote.”

To qualify for an absentee ballot, you must meet at least one of the following criteria: You will be absent from where you are registered to vote, you are physically unable to go to the polls, you can not go to the polls because of religious beliefs, you are over the age of 60, you are confined to jail awaiting arraignment or trial or you have been appointed an election precinct inspector in a precinct other than the precinct in which you reside.

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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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