Williamston residents sound off on COVID-19’s impact on governor’s race

Some residents in Williamston weigh in on whether Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s response to COVID-19 will impact her re-election bid in 2022. At the start of the pandemic when most states around the country mandated lockdowns, Michigan was one of the states to have the most strict and stringent protocols as some appreciated Whitmer’s efforts in keeping the community safe, some such as Williamston business owner Gary Cube, said she may have overstepped.

Williamston Library hosts movie club for students

After school movie club at the Williamston Public Library. (Emily Kellogg)

The movie club held monthly at the Williamston Library is a new adventure for kids ages 10 to 17 that gives them a chance to meet new people, hangout with friends and watch movies based on books in the library. 

Amanda Fields, a librarian at the Williamston Public Library and head of the movie club, chooses to show the movie adaptions of these books in an effort to encourage students to read them after seeing the films if they are interested. Another goal of the club is to show the kids that the library is a space for them and adults. Fields wants the kids to become more comfortable with the space by giving them opportunities to get more familiar with it through after-school programs such as this one. 

“When we had a movie program before COVID hit, we had a few kids who would come, and they really enjoyed it,” said Jackie McDonald, an assistant at the Williamston Library. “The kids would also have popcorn along with their movies.”

The movie club has been gaining popularity among the students since Fields started putting it on in September.

Project helps battle the increasing number of stray cats in Williamston

The Williamston Community Cats Project has helped hundreds of cats and kittens get off the streets and find homes. 

“The project is here to bring awareness to the community I live in about the ever-growing kitty population and try to get them involved in helping the kitties in our community along with me.” said Sara Brockmiller, founder of the Williamston Community Cats Project. The population of cats in this community is growing quickly due to most being abandoned or turned over to be rehomed. The population is urged on by the fact that most of these cats are not spayed or neutered when they are released. 

Brockmiller wants the community to know that helping these cats is something everyone can do. A couple of ways to start include becoming a volunteer or fostering with Saved By Zade, doing TNR (Trap Neuter Return) on your own, donating, supporting, educating others, or being a feeder. “I have actually technically been rescuing kitties since I was 17…but more so in the last five years and I’ve been with Saved By Zade for three years now.” said Brockmiller, “I started the Williamston Community Cats Project in July of 2020 while working on my first TNR (Trap Neuter Return) colony in Williamston.

Williamston City Council discusses open position

In this meeting, one of the more pressing matters the council discussed was the timeline for appointing a new council member. The 60-day window of time would have run smoothly following the resignation of Council Member Jeffrey Weiss, but the council was not able to meet to accept the resignation during a September meeting due to a power outage. The new timeline that was set is as follows. 

Accepting application deadlineNovember 3rdInterviews to be heldNovember 8thCouncil will vote November 22nd

There were a variety of other topics discussed in the meeting including a centurion recognition. Stanley Krupa, born in 1921, had his 100th birthday on Oct. 18.

Bike Nights at Tony M’s

COVID-19 has made it difficult for events such as Bike Night to happen, but Tony M’s, located in Lansing, Michigan, has taken precautions to be as safe as possible. 

“I believe everybody takes precautions, “said Brooklyn Milliken, an employee and friend of the owner at Tony M’s, “we have tried to seat everybody six feet apart, just to be careful. Trying not to let too many people gather closely and we hold the event outside so people can have space to be safe and have fun.”

Bike night at Tony M’s started as a way to give the community an opportunity to go out and have fun with live music during a time when events like this were scarce due to COVID-19. It has since grown in popularity, and become a significant part of some people’s lives. According to Milliken, Bike Night hosts different bands each time starting at the beginning of the summer and stopping at the end of October, leaving just two more weeks to catch the event. 

This event is hosted every Wednesday night at Tony M’s. It includes live music, good food, good people, and a good time, said Steve Smith, a regular attendee of the event. 

Bike night began in April of 2020.

Williamston businesses bouncing back from COVID-19

Businesses in this community have been navigating the path of reopening amidst the ever-changing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. 

When asked about how the initial shutdown in March 2020 affected the business, each business faced similar trials. “We were closed for a while because the previous owner passed away from non-COVID-related reasons, and so we were closed down for a while kind of right in the middle of the pandemic,” said Paul Schotzco, a co-owner of Six String Place, which is a guitar store that offers lessons and repairs “We had been closed down for a couple of months and we re-opened in October … One of the other owners teaches guitar lessons here, and he was here kind of taking some students on the side, until we had to restructure the business due to supply chain issues, which has been the biggest problem.” 

Other businesses that were just starting up faced unusual trials as well. “When we first bought the building two months before the initial shutdown, we were planning on fixing it up and selling it and then we thought about a coffee shop, and then finally settled on a bookstore,” said Michael McKenzie, owner of Barrett’s Books. “We did a soft opening and I think being open now, with the only bookstore in quite a radius, I think people are just happy to have somewhere to go.”

COVID precautions

Since the mask mandate was lifted on June 22, 2021, business owners leave it up to customers to mask. “We just kind of let people decide on their own, “said Will Long, owner of the Studio Shop, “that’s probably one of the reasons for our success as we don’t really get political at all, so we let people make their own decisions.” 

“It was a challenge at first, with all the CDC guidelines, social distancing and the mask wearing and all of that, once we got all that figured out, then students started coming back … Music is one of those things that people are going to do, you know?” said Schotzco “I mean it’s hard when you’re doing a face-to-face sort of lesson with someone, but just being really cautious about making sure people know to let us know if they have been sick or anything like that.”

Supporting small businesses

Some small businesses have had success even with the pandemic as people began to realize the importance of supporting small businesses in the community.