School district sees enrollment increase

By Jesse O’Brien
Williamston Post staff writer

Schools in the Williamston Community School district have seen an increase in students since a head count was taken last February.

Source: Williamston School District

Enrollment numbers have jumped from 1,855 to 1,891 since then, according to results from the district’s count day, which was taken on Oct. 5. The increase in students is about 36 more than the school budgeted for in the school year.

“With numbers higher than we anticipated in the spring, we’ve had to add three new classrooms,” superintendent Narda Murphy said. “We also have six teachers who are teaching on their planning hour to absorb the increase there.”

She added that one of the biggest challenges has been adjusting to a new kindergarten schedule, which has the students going to school for an entire day instead of the usual half-day schedule.
Murphy said the increase in students was not enough to warrant the hiring of new teachers. She said by having those six employees teach on their planning hour, it cut down on what the cost would have been for those extra students.

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First Annual Williamston History Day Deemed Success

By Sean Gagnier
Williamston Post Staff Writer


Williamston Depot Museum

The city of Williamston hosted the first annual Williamston History Day Oct. 9 to encourage residents to explore the history of their town all the way back to when it was in inhabited by Native Americans. History Day was a collaboration of several venues working in tandem to put together something that could become a tradition in Williamston.

Organizers expressed their goal to attract visitors to the museums and establish a relationship within the community. Williamston Depot Museum Curator Jane Johnson said that she wanted to bring people who had never known about the museum into the building with history day.

“I heard people wandering around the back cases and saying, ‘I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’ve never been to this place. It’s wonderful’,” Johnson said. “That kind of reaction is exactly what we wanted.”

The event was spread across five historical sites; the Williamston Depot Museum, Branch School, St. Katherine’s Episcopal Chapel, Foote Cemetery and Summit Cemetery.

The Branch School, 985 Sherwood Road, is reopening to the public for the first time as a historical site. It had fallen into disrepair after it was closed, and it took a group of workers nearly three years to completely restore the building said the Williamston Chamber of Commerce in a statement on Sunday.

Activities at the Williamston History Museum included the unveiling of a new Ingham County Historical Marker and the opening of a new history of Williamston exhibit.

“(The Williamston Depot Museum) has had a marker for quite some time now, but a year or so ago one of the teachers at Williamston High School realized that the information on the plaque wasn’t correct,” Johnson said. “So we called the Ingham County offices and they made us a new plaque. That is what we wanted to show off.”

Use this map to find the Branch School from the Williamston Depot Museum

In previous years the exhibits at the Williamston Depot Museum had focused on the history of the building and the railroad in Williamston, but it was recently decided by the museum curators to remodel the exhibits and include a ‘History of Williamston’ portion.

“We cleaned out all of the permanent cases that we had on the floor, and we changed nine of them into our history of Williamston exhibit,” Johnson said. “Visitors can now come in and see Williamston grow from when Native Americans lived in the area up until the 1900s.”

History Day drew several hundred visitors to each venue, and the event planners expressed their support for continuing  the event in the future.

“It’s a good event for Williamston, I think it should continue for a long time,” said Rosemary Phillips of the Williamston Historical Society.

Williamston Schools Foundation Adds Two New Trustees

By Sean Gagnier
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

The Williamston Schools Foundation has named two new trustees to its executive board. Both Jennifer Dewane and Melissa Smith are mothers of students in the Williamston School district and their addition is expected to bring new energy to the board.

“Both are successful professional women with the skills and talents that status implies,” said Jeanne Van Wieren, of the Williamston Schools Foundation. “Also, both are mothers of Williamston school students, so their connection to the school district is very strong.”

The goal of the schools foundation is to gather funds for the district from private individuals and dispense them across the schools in order to benefit teachers and students at each school. Funds raised will help teachers with programs designed to get students active and involved in school as well as for the purchasing of any necessary equipment for school usage.

Funds from the Williamston Schools Foundation went to help geocaching efforts at Explorer Elementary as well as to bring in a resident artist.

This year the Williamston Schools Foundation funded multiple projects across many Williamston schools including; a new kiln for the art program at the Williamston Middle School, geocaching tools for Explorer Elementary students and robotics at the elementary and high school levels. Funding also went to bring in a resident artist to help teachers at Explorer and Discovery Elementary Schools to use the arts as teaching tools.

The Williamston Schools Foundation raises about $40,000 annually from their two primary fundraisers, the Education Wins! Raffle and the Williamston Schools Foundation Golf Outing. This year the raffle will take place a month earlier, meaning anyone seeking to enter should contact the Williamston Schools Foundation soon.

Education Wins! Raffle Chair Tom Tuggle stressed the importance of the raffle to the school district and to the community in a statement released by the Williamston Schools Foundation.

“The on-going generosity of area residents and our sponsors, make it possible for the Williamston Schools Foundation raise the almost $40,000 it awards to the Williamston Community Schools every year,” Tuggle said.  “(Residents) support helps us make the great ideas from our teachers become reality. You can do a good deed AND just might win a little extra green for yourself. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.”

With the addition of Smith and Dewane the Williamston Schools Foundation members hope to make a commitment to raising funds to pay for enhancements to the Williamston Community School’s curriculum. This includes a strong network within the community, excellent people skills and an interest in education.

Councilmember Steps Down To Focus on Olympic Dreams

By Jesse O’Brien
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

The Williamston City Council will have to find a replacement for councilmember Andy Simmons since he has resigned from his post to train for the 2012 Olympic wrestling team.

At the city council meeting on Sept. 26, the council voted to accept Simmons’ resignation, and he was immediately relieved of his post’s duties. However, Simmons would have likely been relieved of his duties in any event because his absence at the city council meeting on Sept. 12 marked his third straight unexcused absence after which a seat is considered vacant.

Simmons during his time with the MSU Wrestling team. (Courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications)

Simmons, a former four-time state champion wrestler for Williamston High School and two-time All American while at Michigan State University, said in the letter that the time he would need to spend training for the Olympics would not leave him enough time to fulfill his responsibilities as a councilmember.

“I just didn’t want to be on council and not be there as far as knowing the issues and information,” Simmons said.

He added that when he was elected, he was aware that his extracurricular activities might eventually force him to resign from council.

“For the most part it was in the back of my mind,” Simmons said. “I knew … that I wanted to keep training, but still I wanted to see if I could balance training with council.”

The Williamston City Council is one person short after councilmember Andy Simmons' resignation was accepted last week.

The timing of Simmons’ resignation poses a problem for the council because it will now have to scramble to find a replacement within 60 days of its acceptance of the resignation. Because Simmons did not resign before Aug. 16, his seat will not be eligible in the upcoming election and whoever replaces him will have to hold the seat until the following year’s election, making it a two-year position.

City Manager Tim Allard said the council preferred to hold off on appointing the position until the new members were elected, further shortening the time to find a replacement .

Allard said that with the seat left vacant by Simmons, in addition to the empty seats which are up for election, the council could be drastically changed soon.

“Every councilmember brings [their] own personal worldview, priorities and objectives and those are the people who make decisions that affect the community,” Allard said. “We could have a significantly different council after the election and that could have some degree of ramifications.”

Councilmember Larry Wittrup came into the council under similar circumstances, stepping into the vacancy left by former Councilmember Tim Grossman. However, because Grossman resigned before Aug. 16, his seat will be on the ballot during the election, leaving four seats to be decided on Nov. 8 by the people of Williamston and Simmons’ seat to be filled by the council.

Wittrup said he did not expect Simmons’ resignation to affect the council very much.

“It’s like in a corporation,” he said. “Council’s made up of seven people, and if one steps down, the rest have to carry on.”

Wittrup added that while unfortunate, the departure of colleagues is something that is unavoidable, and the council will have to do its best to deal while being one person short.

“The problem is, everybody has a private life,” he said. “It’s not a full-time job serving on council, so you have to do what’s best for you in your individual personal life.”

New Enterprise Needed for Downtown

New Enterprise Needed for Downtown

By, Taylor Miller




WILLIAMSTON- At 122 W. Grand River Ave. the search continues to find a new enterprise in the center of Williamston’s downtown.

The Ingham County Land Bank acquired the foreclosed property last March and is working with the city to fill the space instead of auctioning the property off, said Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing.

“What happens is the Land Bank really wants to work with the city on this. After they have received all of the proposals they ask the city officials for their opinion and if they have any recommendations”, said Michael Gradis of Community Development.

The location was most recently El Indio Tijuana, A Mexican Restaurant and prior to that it was a deli.

Gradis explains that it was always a food establishment and the city would like to keep it that way.

“What we’ve talked about is that we want the storefront to be an attraction,” Gradis said. “Something that will generate a lot of foot traffic through the area such as a restaurant, coffee shop or a new clothing store,” said Gradis.

Shortly before Christmas, a new restaurant by the name of Tavern 109 will be opening in downtown Williamston. Gradis said that he hopes the restaurant will be a huge attraction that not only brings recognition to the area, but hopefully the shops in the area as well.

The City set an application deadline of Oct. 10 and received only two proposals for the property.

                           For more information on the property: (517) 655-2774.

Google Map From East Lansing to Storefront

City Council Approves $103,968 Construction Plan

By Jesse O’Brien
The Williamston Post staff writer

The Williamston City Council voted unanimously to reallocate $50,000 from the city’s general fund balance to finance a roadwork project.

City manager Tim Allard said Williamston had about $210,000 extra in the budget, left over from the previous fiscal year that ended in June. The proposed plan would pay for the pulverization and resurfacing of Wallace Street and Southfield Drive. Estimated cost of the project is expected to be $103,968, and the repairs are expected to remain intact for 20 to 25 years.

(View Williamston Planned Construction to see the affected areas.)

The council was originally expected to vote on a repair plan that would last for six to eight years and cost about $53,000. However, after discussing the possibilities with the city engineer, Allard proposed more extensive repairs be considered.

“The thought is that this just isn’t a candidate for a chip and seal project,” Allard said at the meeting. “The road is too far gone for that.”

Councilmember Larry Wittrup expressed concern about the project, noting that a more extensive repair job would also result in lengthier road closings. He also recalled a time when the city paid a contractor to repair the road and the result was inadequate.

“When we have somebody come in to town and put together a development like that, we need to make sure they put some money in escrow to finish the top coat on those roads because that’s what we weren’t doing back then,” Wittrup said.

The council acknowledged Wittrup’s misgivings and agreed they would be addressed with the upcoming project.

After the meeting, Allard said the project is expected to start in the last two weeks of October and take about one week to finish.

Other business

Also on the council’s agenda was a request to waive an application fee for Tina Brookhouse Fitness Studio, 311 W. Grand River Ave. The council voted unanimously against the proposal.

“It sets a bad precedent,” councilmember Michael Moody said. “We’ll have everyone come and ask us to split the fees with them and this is not our money. It’s [the community’s] money.”

Finally, the council addressed the departures of councilmember Andy Simmons and City Manager Allard. Simmons submitted his letter of resignation to the city on Sept. 21, stating he wished to focus his time on training for the 2012 Olympic wrestling team. The council unanimously voted to accept Simmons’ resignation and terminate his obligations to the city effective immediately, leaving his seat vacant until a replacement is found.

On the way out

Williamston City Manager Tim Allard addresses the city council at the Monday, Sept. 26 meeting.

Allard had previously announced plans to retire in August, pinpointing Nov. 15 as his final day as city manager. However, the council voted to extend that date until January 15, 2012 so councilmembers elected in November will have the opportunity to select Allard’s replacement themselves. The new timeline calls for submission of applications for the position to be completed by Oct. 10. The council will discuss the vacancy again at the Oct. 24 meeting.

“What we can do is make a recommendation of the appropriate regimen to the council for their review,” Councilmember Scott VanAllsburg said. “Not to make a decision, but just to get it out in the open.

Williamston City Councilman Abruptly Resigns

By Sean Gagnier
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

Williamston City Councilman Andy Simmons abruptly resigned from his position at the end of September in order to pursue his dream to compete in the Olympics. His departure leaves a vacancy on the City Council that needs to be addressed.

Councilman Andy Simmons

Councilman Simmons tendered his resignation after a City Council meeting Sept. 21. He had been requesting a leave of absence so that he could help his brother train for the world games and ready himself to try out for the Olympics. The majority of the City Council voted to not excuse Simmons’ absences and he submitted his resignation in response.

“It’s their right as the City Council to do that,” Simmons said. “There’s a lot of little intricacies that go on in politics, and you really have to be there.”

Williamston Mayor Michelle Van Wert said that she did not wish to see Simmons leave and that she voted against the motion that denied the request to excuse his absences.

“His achievement should be celebrated,” Van Wert said. “It’s unfortunate that we do have to lose him, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he felt he needed to take it.”

Simmons said that he did not wish to put Williamston in a situation where they would have to appoint a new council member, but that he might never have this opportunity again.

“I have a lot of love for the city, but I just felt that I needed to take this chance,” Simmons said.

Williamston voters will not be able to vote for a candidate to serve the two years left on Simmons’ term because his resignation came after the Aug. 16 filing deadline. The vacancy must be filled by appointment.

An Oct. 19 deadline has been established by Williamston City Council for residents to submit their applications to be considered for appointment to the council. Council members hope to have a replacement for Simmons appointed on Oct. 24.

“I hope they find someone with younger eyes, that can take a fresh look at things and find new ways to get things done,” Simmons said

Applications are available at the Williamston City Council, 161 E. Grand River Ave., and must be submitted to City Council by 5 p.m. on Oct. 19.

Click for map to Williamston City Hall

The situation surrounding City Council continues to get more confusing as time goes on. Voters will head to the polls in November to vote to fill four vacant spots on the council. Voters will have to choose between eight candidates vying for those four vacancies. If the city council appoints one of the hopefuls to Simmons’ seat on Oct. 24 and that person is subsequently voted into office, the person will have to resign one of the two seats they then occupy.


Fall Harvest Weather Worries

By Taylor Miller
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

Fall harvest can make or break a farmer economically. “When you plant there is a lot invested”, said Royce Lockwood of Roybar Farm in Williamston. “You have to buy fertilizer, equipment and I even have total insurance on my beans.”

Farmers plant their crops in the spring and wait for the warm weather of the summer and the fall for harvesting.

“It really depends on the weather”, says Lockwood, “We need to get the ground dried off so we can plant it and we need to get the ground dried off in order to harvest.”

Don Oesterle, who is the Vice President of the Ingham County Farm Bureau, agrees with Lockwood.

“Because of the weather patterns during this past spring, we have two different sets of crops; ones that were planted the first of May and ones planted the first of June,” said Oesterle, who has a farm himself.

With crops being 3 to 4 weeks behind schedule in the spring because all of the wet weather, farmer John Allen explains his concern.

“It takes so many degree days to mature any crop and we are behind schedule. The weather man just said he can see this nice weather running through October and we need all the nice weather we can get.”

Allen is an Ingham County Farm Bureau board member, as well as being in charge of managing district two. District two is made up of a cluster of townships in the area, including Williamston.

Allen, Oesterle and Lockwood all expressed that coming off of last seasons harvest puts this years to shame.

“You couldn’t ask for better weather last year if you would have ordered it and planned it ahead,” said Allen.

Allen tests the moisture of a section of his crops to see if it is ready to harvest before taking action.

“You have to take the beans to market at 13 percent moisture and the corn at 14 percent so it’s important to get it right.” Allen makes it clear that straying from that range will affect the farmer economically.

At 80 years old, Royce Lockwood said that he has seen his fair share of successful harvests and harvests that don’t always turn out the way that he hopes. His only wish for the season is a dry week in October to harvest his crops.

When asked to give advice to budding farmers, Lockwood chuckled, “My only advice it to keep your hand out of the corn picker so you don’t loose it.”

Oesterle speaks for farmers everywhere when he says, “Well there’s a risk, but you do it because you love what you do.”


The Williamston Farmers Market 2011

By Taylor Miller
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

From organic produce to Asian cuisine, the Williamston Farmer’s Market has spent the last 8 years providing a variety of fruits, vegetables and other products to its community.

Michael Gradis of the Community Development Authority explains that although he has only been in charge of the market for a year, he see’s it as a complete success.

“It is not about turning profit for the city”, Gradis said. “It’s about allowing access to fresh produce and other fresh locally grown organic materials so people have options other then going to a grocery store, convenience store or gas station to buy food.”

The Williamston Development Authority’s goal is to improve the community. They achieve this by capturing tax dollars to fund different developments such as infrastructure improvements, façade improvements and marketing for the downtown area such as the market.

With hopes of marketing the downtown area, the group decided to start the Farmer’s Market in May of 2003.

In 2008, Christine Miller was handpicked by the city to become the Market Manager and according to Gradis, Miller was selected for her experience and expertise in the business.

“This is my third year as the market manager in Williamston”, said Miller. “I am also the manager of the Meridian Township market, where I steal lots of ideas from.”

Miller uses her networking ability to draw attention to the budding Farmer’s Market. She also said that she encourages vendors from other market’s to join Williamston’s.

The market is funded by city grants, applications and a stall fee, which is paid to the city in order to vend on its property for a certain amount of hours.

“The stall fee the market collects from its vendors is the only money the city see’s from the operation,” said Gradis, “and that amount is not very much”.

The stall fee is a requirement for vendors, as well as the submission of an application for their individual business.

“It was very easy to apply,” explains Katie Whittaker of Katharo Fields Bakery, “I just applied online and got in touch with Christine Miller.”

Other vendors may not agree with the ease of the market applications.

“There are lot’s of rules to be in this market,” said Clarence Humphrey of CJ&T Produce. Because of his wide array of products, it wasn’t as easy for him to get ready for the market, as it may have been for other vendors with only one product.

The new Michigan Cottage Food Law allows vendors to make products in their homes. Previously, those products had to be made in government-certified kitchens.

Elizabeth Tennes of The Country Mill said that she had no problem abiding by the rules and regulations of the Farmer’s Market.

“The only issue we had is that this market was slower moving than some of the other ones we have attended.”

Despite the smaller number of customers compared to other markets, many vendors had good things to say about the Williamson Farmer’s market.

“I love it, its great. The people who come here are unbelievable. It’s awesome,” said Kolache Kitchen representative, Jenni Alfaro.

Katie Whittaker of Katharo Fields said, “We will definitely be back next year.”

Williamston Prepares for Fourth Annual Buck Pole

By Sean Gagnier
The Williamston Post Staff Writer

The Williamston Chamber of Commerce will host the Fourth Annual Williamston Buck Pole this November. Hunters from across mid-Michigan will gather in Williamston to compete for the title of having collected the largest deer of the season.

Merindorf Meats is sponsoring the Buck Pole for the third consecutive year and will host the event at their business at 300 Business Center Rd., Williamston, Mich.

“Merindorf has been working with the Williamston Buck Pole for the third straight year and will host the event right at our Williamston location,” a spokesman with Merindorf Meats said. “If hunters wish to have their meat processed they will have to take it to our Mason (2289 West Barnes Rd., Mason, Mich.) location.”

The contest officially opens to the public on Nov. 15, but judging will not begin until Nov. 20. Each hunter must pay a $10 entry fee and must hang their game from the pole where it must remain until the end of judging on that day.

Included with the entry fee, entrants will also receive a 2011 Williamston Buck Pole t-shirt, $10 worth of Buck Pole raffle tickets and a discount on taxidermy services.

Judging runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily and scoring will follow the Boone and Crockett “gross” standards. Any hunter wishing to enter into the competition must legally kill their deer obeying all local ordinances. All animals entered into the Buck Pole must be legally tagged and field dressed to be considered for judging.

There will be awards for men, women and youth entrants in; overall score typical, overall score non-typical, heaviest antlered, heaviest non-antlered and antlers only. All youth who enter a deer will receive an award.

“(The Williamston Buck Pole) promotes the successful harvest of white-tail deer in a manner that supports family traditions and conservation,” said the Williamston Chamber of Commerce.

Hunters must be able to provide detailed information on the area, time and person who killed the deer before being entered into the competition.

Past Buck Poles have drawn more than 1,200 people. Prizes exceeding $7,000 have been awarded. The Buck Pole Grand Finale will take place on Nov. 27 and run from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. that night.

Click for a map to the Williamston Buck Pole