Board of education discusses distracted driving prevention program

Williamston High School Principal Jeffrey Thoenes describes the students preventing distracted driving program during the board of education meeting on March 16.

By Jacob Allen
The Williamston Post

Each day in the United States, nine people die and 1,060 people are hurt in car accidents with distracted driving as the reported cause. These statistics are according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This issue was taken head-on during the March 16 Williamston Board of Education. The board celebrated and discussed a program called students preventing distracted driving held at Williamston High School during early March.

“Preventing distracted driving has become more and more important for building that awareness in our young drivers and even our older drivers,” said Narda Murphy, the superintendent of the Williamston School District. “Students really got to experience what it is like to be distracted while driving with the simulator and the consequences that could follow.”

Students preventing distracted driving is run by Williamston High School English teachers Lana Jaskowski and Caitlin Stansell. The program was started three years ago. This year, students preventing distracted driving began in January with a media campaign. Posters, pamphlets, essays and commercials were all written or made by students to bring awareness and end distracted driving. The program focuses on 10th grade students, who by no coincidence are around ages 15 to 16 and are about ready to start driving.

“Too many individuals are using their hand-held devices while driving and a lot of them are doing it in school zones,” said Jeffrey West, who has been the vice president of the board for two years. “Hopefully a program like this one opens the eyes of drivers out there and helps stop at least some of this activity.”

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Adult Writers Group draws attention

Micki Magee, a librarian at the Williamston Library and the creator of the Adult Writers Group, reads over a piece during the March 4 meeting.

By Jacob Allen
The Williamston Post

When Micki Magee, a librarian at the Williamston Library, created the Adult Writers Group she had the goal of helping local writers. Magee emphasized the importance of assisting writers to become more comfortable in their work. After three months, the group averages around four members per meeting, with as many as six on and off. The group meets once a month at the Williamston Library.

“For this group the goal is to help each other become more confident in our writing, to be more secure and to become better writers,” said Magee. “Publishing will come naturally after you have confidence in your writing.”

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Community rallies around March is Reading Month


Jackie McDonald, Librarian at the Williamston Library for 18 years, stands in front of the March is Reading Month display located at the library.

By Jacob Allen
The Williamston Post

The National Education Association’s March is Reading Month kicked off on March 1 followed by its annual Read Across America Day on March 2. This year’s theme is “Ohh the Places You’ll Go” based on a book by Dr. Seuss. Every year since March 2, 1998 the association has put on March is Reading Month with the hopes of building a nation of readers. This year the program has found support from multiple sources in Williamston.

“March is Reading Month is a good program. We like to help out where we can,” said Bruce Weber, store director of downtown Williamston’s D&W Fresh Market of two years. “We have a donation box so customers can donate books. It worked out good this year because we switched book companies, so we had books at the store for 50 percent off then, they went 75 percent off. Hopefully, the customers bought and donated some of those books.”

The donated books were collected by Williamston Middle School teacher Michelle Ellis and brought back to the school for use during March is Reading Month. According to Weber, customers of D&W Fresh Market responded well to the program. The store director noted the donation box filled up fairly quickly. Weber says the program is a win for customers and students alike.

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Pets in Cold Weather



Dog-owner Rob Ruse with his dog Ruby

By Julie Dunmire
Williamston Post Staff
The weather outside is definitely frightful, with temperatures reaching into the negatives regularly this month.

While people are braving the cold with mittens, scarves and hats galore, pet owners may be concerned about their animal’s safety this winter.

Sales Manager Bailey Baughan at Joey’s Pet outfitters in Williamston says that there’s also a lot of options for your pets to keep them warm this winter.

Furry friends can wear Under Armour style gear, coats, and even boots according to Baughan.

Baughan says there are some signs to look for to tell if your pet is too cold.

“Obviously if they’re shivering, or lifting up their paws as if they’re uncomfortable, that’s when you want to be concerned and bring them inside,” said Baughan.

Pet owner Rod Ruse keeps his purebred boxer, Ruby, active by taking her into pet-friendly stores in the winter. Ruse says walks are a regular part of their routine in the summertime, but in the winter, they like to get out of the house by walking around stores.

“She gets a little bit of running in the house, but winters are bad. Summers, she gets a lot of walks.”

Since Ruby is a short-haired dog, with little hair on her stomach, Ruse says it’s especially difficult to keep her warm outside.

Things like keeping your pet’s paws in tip-top shape are important, according to the Williamston Animal Clinic’s website. Pet owners should wash their animals’ feet after coming inside, as the ice and snow can crack paws. Chemicals like sidewalk salt can also hurt and dry out paws.

Pet owners should also look out for frostbite on their furry friend’s nose, or even toenails.

Joey’s Pet Outfitter employee Brian Isanhart says that as far as indoor activities for pets go, it’s difficult for them to get exercise while inside. Keeping your dog stimulated with puzzle toys and treat-hiding toys can help them combat the winter blues.

However, Isanhart says there’s no replacement for getting up and being active with your pets.

“A short walk is good, just to get their heart rate up. Even if it’s just going around the block,” said Isanhart.  “Most dogs, aside from small dogs, can handle the cold because they’re warm-blooded. I think a lot of people are too paranoid when it comes to being outside in the cold.”

Mermaid Lagoon daddy and daughter dance makes a splash

By Bryce Airgood
The Williamston Post

It’s not every day that you see mermaids at a school — especially when they have their dads with them.


Ally and Abby Stiffler show off their dresses.

The annual Discovery Elementary School was mermaid-themed, and people were excited to get there. Although the dance started at 6:30 p.m., people were arriving by 6 p.m. said Jennifer MacGillis. As director of the Williamston Community Fitness Center and Community Enrichment, MacGillis was in charge of the event.

“It makes for a long day,” MacGillis said. “(But) it’s nice to see them dressed up and enjoying themselves.”

There was plenty to see and do once people got there. Couples could have their picture taken by either Jim or Jamie Smith of 4Front Photography or they could go out to the dance floor where a Jump Start DJ was playing. There were also treats such as cookies, cupcakes, waters and juice.


Craig, Steven, Scarlett, Anelle and Evie Walther and John Irvine all pose as Jamie Smith snaps their picture.

Helping to keep the snacks supplied were “mermaids” Kathryn Kufahl and Kelly Stuart. Stuart, who is the swim lessons coordinator at the Williamston Community Pool, doesn’t usually like to work the dances put on by the Williamston Fitness Center. This time was different.

“I normally don’t do them (the dances),” she said. “But I wanted to hang out with my work people and the little girls I teach swim lessons to.”

The little girls and their partners were out in force with more than 235 couples signed up “before we entered the door” according to MacGillis.


Clara Mitchinson, a high school volunteer, poses next to the coat table at 6:35 p.m., five minutes after the start of the dance.

Girls were seen dressed as mermaids and in everyday dresses. Some, like Madison Ganser, got their dresses from wedding galleries. Others, like Claire Casey, wanted a more sentimental feel and wore dresses their sisters had passed down to them.

Daddies and daughters alike seemed to enjoy the dance.

“It’s been fun,” said Claire, and her friend Sydney Eiler agreed that, “it’s awesome.”

For Eric Genske and his second grade daughter, Kala, this is their third dance.

This was the third dance for Eric Genske and his second grade daughter, Kala.

“It gives you some nice time as a dad with your daughter, before they get too busy with their teenage years,” said Genske. “It just kind of slows things down, gives you a nice moment to remember.”


Claire Casey models one of the necklaces that couples could buy for $12.

Even the employees enjoyed working the dance, but for very different reasons.

“(It’s) fun watching dads because some of them have no idea what they’re doing,” said Cody Reeve, an employee at the Williamston Community Fitness Center. “My favorite part is when the kids know more than the dads.”

The event was held March 20, and lasted until 8:30 p.m.

Women-owned businesses taking over Williamston


Tina Brookhouse teaches a class at her studio, Tina Brookhouse Fitness.

By Teresa Fata
The Williamston Post

Women-owned businesses are quickly taking over in Williamston. The staggering number of women owning and operating their own businesses in Williamston is growing, and their businesses are, as well.

Many women are opening new businesses, such as Dawn-Marie Joseph, who is set to open the Blue Button Bakery soon. She says that despite the fact that she already owns many businesses in Williamston, she wanted to open a bakery because she loves baking with friends.

 However, Joseph has often felt at a disadvantage as a woman.

“At times men can be very flippant with a female business owner, even in this day and age,” Joseph explained. “Women are usually more verbal and a lot of men don’t care for that.”

 Because so many women own businesses in Williamston, many haven’t often felt at a disadvantage as Joseph has. In fact, most see advantages to being women business owners in Williamston.

Tina Brookhouse, the owner of Tina Brookhouse Fitness Studio, employs mostly female instructors, and credits a lot of the female business owners’ success to her landlord, Teresa Wood. 

“There’s a camaraderie between the women business owners,” Brookhouse elaborated. “My landlord is one of the most supportive, and all of the women business owners look to her for advice! She’s so wonderful telling everyone in town about our businesses.”

Joseph is a large proponent of the growth of the downtown Williamston area, and believes that a lot of female business owners are attracted to the community that comes along with being part of Williamston.

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Tina Brookhouse is one of many women who own businesses in Williamston.

 “(We like) a smaller, maybe more intimate way to do business where we can know our clients,” said Joseph. “Williamston is a very family oriented type of town and it’s a comfort to know that customers understand that you have a family.”

 Amy Mirate, the owner of Spagnuolo’s, also credits a lot of the success of female business owners to Williamston to their ability to recognize what makes this town special.

 “I think women are dominating Williamston businesses perhaps, because… they want to improve the economy in the downtown area and they see its great potential,” said Mirate. There are a tremendous amount of fabulous new restaurants and shops in Williamston and they all contribute to its charm.”

City Council approves elevator update

By Teresa Fata
The Williamston Post

The Williamston City Council approved a $17,000 elevator update to the Williamston Community Center at the City Council meeting on March 23.

There were two options suggested by Otis Elevator Company to fix the Community Center elevator. Option one would cost $10,900 and would simply replace the malfunctioning hydraulic valve. Option two would replace the entire power unit, but would cost $17,000.

After learning that the Williamston Senior Center would donate $8,500, the council unanimously moved to approve the larger update. Councilman Jim DeForest was happy to approve the larger update rather than the less expensive option.

“I moved to approve the larger amount to fix the elevator as it looked like a better long-term option,” DeForest explained. “The other proposal was just a ‘Band-Aid’ in my opinion. It was fortunate that the Seniors’ Foundation had some funds to help us.”

Julie Chrisinske, the head librarian at the Williamston branch of the Capital Area District Library located in the Community Center, was at the meeting and was ecstatic when the approval was given. She said that there are many senior citizens who want to enjoy the library but can’t due to the constantly malfunctioning elevator.

“We absolutely need it,” said Chrisinske. “We have patrons who just can’t get up there.”

Others, like Tim Baise, a citizen trying to purchase the Community Center, were happy to see the repairs approved from a technical standpoint.

“It’s a good deal. I met with Otis and they said that the boards were outdated so all of the components had to be re-done in order to do it right,” explained Baise. “It just needs to be done.”


Community members “go Greek” at Gracie’s Place

By Meagan Beck
The Williamston Post

The sound of vegetables being finely chopped could be heard and the smell of spices filled Gracie’s Place on Monday night.

A new cooking class was being held at the restaurant and the night was filled with socializing and watching a chef who instructed the spectators on how to prepare Greek dishes.

Gracie’s Place hosts a series of cooking classes usually every month with a new theme.

The class is $55 per person with some group rates. It includes the dinner being taught and wine.

Scott Rutter, the executive chef, said Greek food hasn’t been taught before which was why it was the theme for the night.

Attendees were shown how to prepare a Greek salad, gyros and moussaka – with Scott’s tips and tricks.

“I try to take it from a professional aspect instead of a home-cook aspect,” Scott said.

Lansing residents Mary Griggs, Rose Braddock and a group of their friends have attended the cooking classes since they started happening in 2011.

The group started by attending for someone’s birthday and keep going back because of the good time they have and how informative the classes are.

“We’re not actually cooking but that’s OK, we’re watching it and (Scott) does a great job,” Braddock said.

She added that she has picked up a few tips from Scott since attending the classes.

“I can’t say I’ve tried a particular recipe he has done, but I’ve incorporated things I’ve learned from him in my cooking,” Braddock said.

Griggs said she enjoys the intimate atmosphere and being able to enjoy a nice evening out with friends.

“It’s a real personal feeling of being here with everyone, we’ve gotten to know the people (at Gracie’s Place),” Griggs said. “We look forward to coming back to the next presentation.”

City Planning Commission to further research future outdoor furnace ordinance

By Meagan Beck
The Williamston Post

The Planning Commission called for further research on an Outdoor Furnace Ordinance at a meeting on March 3.

The ordinance was sent to the commission for review after a Feb. 23 city council meeting.

Alan Dolley, city manager, said the topic of creating an ordinance arose when a phone call was made to city hall by a citizen inquiring as to whether he or she could install one.

City Manager Alan Dolley said the issue arose when a citizen asked about installing one.

An informal motion declared four members for further research and three for banning the use of outdoor furnaces.

These furnaces can use wood or other resources to heat a home or other buildings.

Despite the initial cost of some furnaces, which range from $2,000 to $5,000, they can help people save money in the long run.

“They’re economical for some people because they’re not spending as much money on natural gas,” Commissioner John Bisard said.

Vice chair member Jane Reagan said she is against the use of these furnaces and banning them would benefit the city.

She said a previous ordinance about outside burning made a positive impact on quality of air and this ordinance would build upon the previous ordinance.

“I don’t want polluting to be allowed, period,” Reagan said.

Mario Ortega, planning and zoning administrator, said he will be doing more research about the use of the furnaces, but he said the ordinance could benefit the city.

“Given the size and scale of our single-family homes … my initial response is (the ordinance) would be good for the city,” Ortega said.

More information is to be provided at the April 7 meeting at City Hall.

Expect road closures until the end of this month

By Meagan Beck
The Williamston Post

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced it will be installing temporary supports at five overpasses along I-96 in Ingham County.

Construction was set to begin Tuesday, Feb. 17 and is estimated to continue until late March.

The overpasses to be worked on include Elm Road, Williamston Road, Zimmer Road, Meridian Road and Hagadorn Road.

According to a press release, the contractor plans to move east to west with about one week of construction at each bridge.

Some single-lane and shoulder closures will occur in each direction.

Many work commuters will not be impacted, as construction will occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day.

Lena Loeffler, a Williamston resident, said she is not concerned with any future trips using any of those routes because the city usually does a good job of instructing people where to go.

“They do a good job of rerouting traffic safely and using appropriate signage,” Loeffler said.

In addition to the temporary supports, some ramp closures at Williamston Road will occur .
The eastbound I-96 exit ramp will be closed, with Williamston Road traffic directed to use eastbound I-96 to southbound Williamston Road.

The northbound Williamston Road loop ramp will be closed, with traffic detoured east on I-96 to M-52, back to westbound I-96.

Scott De Vries, City of Williamston engineer said people will be using country roads more likely during the construction time.

“People need to find an alternate route from the highway,” De Vries said.