The Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 14 has been met with generally positive reviews by officials, law enforcement and experts, but is not without criticism as its effect on a local level is still unknown. “As a good guy, I think it will have some effect on school safety,” said DeWitt Township Chief of Police Brian Russell. “Thinking as a bad guy or kid, new people and technology may pose more of a challenge.”
Critics of the bill, which passed 407-10, claim it doesn’t go far enough to address the issue of school safety and might not be as effective as it seems given the allocated funding, $50 million per year. “Fifty million dollars for 50 states will not go very far,” said DeWitt Public Schools Superintendent John Deiter. “Just one full-time resource officer for my district would cost almost $100,000.
The DeWitt City Council voted unanimously during its March 27 meeting to approve road closures for the August Ox Roast. The closures are standard business for the summer festivities on Main Street and Bridge Street, but this year’s edition will include two additional closures for the car show, on South Scott Street and further west down Main Street. The car show had taken place at the Riverside Park in the past but will now be closer to downtown DeWitt. “The local businesses that are in that four-corner area, they remain open and that’s why you want to move the car show up,” said Dave VanArsdall, president of the DeWitt Memorial Association, who are in charge of organizing the Ox Roast. “So, the people that come up can not only see what the Ox Roast has to offer, but the new businesses.”
The Ox Roast is DeWitt’s annual three-day summer festival of bringing everyone downtown with activities and events that can get everyone involved.
While active shooter classes are ongoing at DeWitt High School, the idea of a full-scale active shooter drill has been met with mixed reviews from parents, law enforcement and school officials. According to DeWitt Township Chief of Police Brian Russell, law enforcement and the school have been having ongoing conversations about school safety, but the idea of an active shooter drill has yet to come up. “I think they should train for the real world,” said Russell. “You learn things by repetition, I think it would be a good thing for them, but if something really happened, I think they’d at least be more prepared for it. I just think it’s a good thing for life, period, it’s good training.
DeWitt High School has started a program of classes with township fire department and police department staff to help prepare students and teachers in the case of an active shooter situation, Fire Chief Dave DeKorte announced during the DeWitt Township Board of Trustees meeting on March 12. DeKorte, who leads the instruction in the classes, said the planning process had been going on for the last couple months, but the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, helped expedite the process. “With everything going on, it just kind of made the ball roll a little faster,” said DeKorte. The program is a daily occurrence, running between 45 minutes to an hour long, where the fire and police personnel visit three different classrooms to give formal instruction on what options they have when an active shooter is present. “Basically, teaching them: if you can, you run; if you can’t, then it’s lockdown in the room, you barricade the door; you get ready to counter, where you’re going to basically throw whatever you can at them; and swarm the person if they come in the room, and then hold them down until we get there,” DeKorte said.
Due to a lack of funds, the Friends of the DeWitt Dog Park will no longer have a formal role in running the dog park, but the city and township will run it business as usual. The group proposed the idea for the park, which is located off West Herbison Road, adjacent to Padgett Park. It recently ran out of funds and dissolved, said DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss, who played a central role in the formation of the dog park on the city’s end. The original agreement to run and fund the park was a joint-partnership between the city, township and Friends group. “As of right now, we’re just going to operate and maintain the dog park status quo,” said Coss.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) presented a plan during the Bath Township Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 20 to reconstruct the intersection on Business Loop I-69 and Marsh Road, aiming to make it safer and more efficient. The state-funded plan is to transform the current intersection into a J-turn format, with a pedestrian crossing to allow for non-motorized access through the intersection, which would restrict northbound vehicle traffic up Marsh Road short of the neighborhood past the intersection. It also has federal funding from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program to help reduce traffic build-up and improve air quality with less idling at the stop lights. However, the plan has been met with mixed reviews from township residents and board members.
As Diane Mosier heads into her 29th year as DeWitt Charter Township clerk, she says it’s the people that keep her coming back. “I love the community, I’ve lived here my whole life, I was born here, I never left,” said Mosier. “I love serving the people here, it’s a great community, the staff is fabulous, and it’s never dull, there’s always someway you can help someone.”
She is currently the longest serving elected official in the township. Mosier got started in civil service at the township in 1990 when she was appointed as clerk and then was elected to the position during the same year. She’s held the role ever since.
John Coscarelli says living in DeWitt is like living amongst a big family. Coscarelli, who owns Relli’s Italian Restaurant, has been a part of the DeWitt community for 22 years. “Once you live here, you’re part of a family,” he said. “It’s a whole different culture. It’s different than East Lansing or Lansing, everybody knows everybody.”
Coscarelli said the people are always there for each other.