Growing up in Florida during a time of segregation and racial tension, retired Okemos teacher Carrie Owens has come a long way. “Sometimes I get identity crisis,” Owens said jokingly. “I grew up in the south as ‘colored,’ and then we were ‘negros,’ then we were ‘black,’ then we were ‘people of color,’ and now we are African-Americans.”
Owens was the first black teacher hired into the Okemos school district in 1964. On Feb. 20, at the Meridian Township Board meeting, Owens was recognized for her contribution to education in honor of Black History Month.
In 2004 Brianne Randall-Gay was a high school soccer player when she came to the Meridian Township Police and told them about her encounters with former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics Doctor, Larry Nassar. “I think everyone knows what happened in 2004, we missed it, we blew it,” said Township Manager Frank Walsh. “Here we are 14 years later and we’ve all come forward to learn that what she was saying was true. On March 20, the Meridian Township Board approved a consulting agreement of $30,000 towards a sexual assault prevention and educational course program led by Randall-Gay. The consulting agreement passed with a vote of 6-1 in favor of the agreement.
At the Meridian Township Board meeting on March 20, police officers Austin Dietz and Blaine Anderson were introduced to the board and the public. “I just want to say I am happy to be here, and I am proud to be serving a community like Meridian,” Dietz said. Meridian Police Chief David Hall said the two officers were sworn in on March 12, at the Meridian Township Police Department in front of their families and fellow law enforcement in attendance. Dietz, who graduated from DeWitt High School, furthered his education at Grand Valley State University, majoring in criminal justice. Dietz then took his Police Academy courses locally at Lansing Community College.
Meridian Township Police Sgt. Scott Dawson said even when he was a kid, teenagers and law enforcement never had a great relationship. “We’re not out to get kids, we just want them to make the right decisions and do the right things,” Dawson said. “They don’t always appreciate law enforcement because we’re sometimes at odds, you know, ruining everyone’s fun and that kind of thing.”
Dawson said when the police started its Youth Citizens Academy around 15 years ago, the goal was to build positive relationships with the community. “We like to get them involved so they can see the reason why we enforce some of these laws, like drunk driving and [minors in possession] and things like that,” Dawson said.
With $50,000 in grants from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund awarded to Meridian Township, Jane Greenway, parks and land management coordinator, said this money will help create new park projects as well as make sure to maintain what is already in place. Greenway, who is a landscape architect, said the main project to be installed is a new waterless bathroom that will be built at the Harris Nature Center in Okemos. “This will be great for the environment because it uses almost all recycled materials,” said Greenway. “Compostable toilets work better, smell better, and are better for the environment.”
Greenway said the grant funding application process is very similar to the college application process, and each application is graded on a specific point scale. Points can be awarded for environmentally friendly design standards as well as crime and safety regulations within a township.