June 10, 2006









Commissioner Don Willcutt invited the audience to participate in the pledge of allegiance.  The public hearing was called to order at 10:00 a.m. by Commissioner Don Willcutt in the Thornapple-Kellogg High School Auditorium.  Commissioner Dave Dykstra is excused from this public hearing.  Commissioner Willcutt introduces Commissioner Roger Pashby and explains the guidelines for this public hearing, stated a notice was posted in the appropriate time frame.

Willcutt asked to hear from those who OPPOSE the proposed project.

Julie Ackerson, 12081 Gackler Road, Middleville (795-3233) states she was shocked to learn of the proposed route on Finkbeiner Road and puzzled as to why another bridge and road is necessary.  She feels it would be less expensive to build a “net” over the town or emergency shelters west of the bridge.  She has driven through Middleville on her way to work for 30 years and has never encountered any delays or traffic jams.  She feels the whole project is unnecessary.  The road goes to nowhere and Bradford-White’s trucks would not be helped.  She is strongly opposed to the proposed project. 

The following letter was read and presented by Ms. Ackerson

When I first heard about building a new bridge across the Thornapple, building a new road to the bridge, and choosing the route from Whitneyville to Patterson on Finkbeiner Road, my first reactions were shock, surprise, and puzzlement.  I thought why do we need another bridge, why do we need another road, and why would you choose a route from Whitneyville to Patterson on Finkbeiner Road?

I was determined to keep an open mind about this project and I put a lot of thought into it making observations as I daily drive the current Main Street corridor across the bridge as I go to and from work in Hastings.

After much thought, my conclusions are still shock, surprise, and puzzlement, why do we need another bridge, why do we need another road, and why would you choose a route from Whitneyville to Patterson on Finkbeiner Road?

First, the argument for needing another bridge across the Thornapple seems to stem from the possibility of a flood washing out the bridge or an accident occurring on the bridge that would prevent emergency vehicles getting to the other side of the bridge.  This reason is akin to building a net over the town in case Chicken Little notices the sky over Middleville is falling.  In fact, it would probably be less expensive to build a net over the town than to build a new bridge and a new road.  The likelihood of a flood or the sky falling is about the same.  If you really do feel a route across the bridge could be compromised in an emergency, it really would make more sense to build another emergency building on the west side of the river.  It could be build on the Faro Pizza building site and could provide emergency services to those on the west side of the river in the event of a bridge collapse or an accident on the bridge.  Or a new emergency building could be built on the old Baby Bliss site.  Then, the problem of a pizza emergency would be eliminated as there would be a pizza place on both sides of the river.  Building a second emergency building and equipping it would be less expensive than building a bridge and a road.

Second, another road is unnecessary.  Middleville is already close to being a ghost town.  As I said earlier, I have driven through Middleville to work on both ends of rush hour traffic.  I have done this for thirty years.  I have never, in my recollection, waited for more than one red light at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway.  Once from the light to Grand Rapids Street I passed only one vehicle – a John Deere tractor.  The downtown area pretty much consists of two pizza parlors, two t-shirt stores, a bar, and a stagecoach with a fence around it.  What would happen to the few businesses in

Middleville if traffic were diverted from Main Street?  We should be trying to attract people to the village not trying to keep them away from it.

Third, why choose the route from Whitneyville to Patterson on Finkbeiner?  Even though this a moot question because, bottom line, this whole project is unnecessary and a colossal waste of money, the real question here is why destroy more farmland and quiet, beautiful county living for people for a road that goes nowhere.   Traffic going east would be stopped at Whitneyville and traffic going west would be stopped at Patterson.  I doubt if few travelers would use the new road.  It goes nowhere.  Bradford White probably thinks it would benefit them as their trucks going west would not have to stop at the light on Broadway, or the stop sign on Cherry Valley.  However, on the new route, the trucks would have to stop at M-37 with no light, Cherry Valley, and probably Schad Road.  This project wouldn’t even help Bradford White.  Each of these intersections would become more dangerous.

I strongly oppose the building of a new bridge across the Thornapple and the building of a new road to the bridge using the Finkbeiner Road corridor.  You just can not justify going ahead with this project.

Julie Ackerson

12081 Gackler Road

Middleville MI  49333


Veronica Scofield was present to speak for Doris Squire of 9225 Finkbeiner Road, Middleville.  She stated the proposed route would go through the Squire’s horse pasture and will affect wetlands.  She noted that horses have been lost in the bogs in this area.  She fears the route would put the Squire’s farm out of business, that it is too expensive and is not the best placement for a new road.  She states it would make more sense to rebuild the existing bridge.  She understands there are federal monies available to replace bridges but asked if there is money available to acquire the necessary land.

(Willcutt responds they are not far enough along with this project to survey the route, and that the Road Commission has funds to acquire property.)

Mary Ackerson, 425 Taffee, Hastings (948-9603) stated the proposed road goes to nowhere and that country roads are not meant to be turned into a major truck route.

Willcutt asked to hear from those in FAVOR of the proposed project.

Steve Williams of Williams & Works Engineering, 5490 Ottawa Avenue NW (224-1500)

(engineering firm for the Village of Middleville) advised that the Village has done a good job of maintaining the bridge, but the bridge deck is in poor condition.  The 65 ton limit on the existing bridge is due to cracks and exposed reinforcing steel.  The cement is sprawled, cracked and leaking and the bridge will continue to deteriorate.  He states it is essential to replace the bridge.

Derk Hatley, 112 Millpond Drive (795-3127) lives in a new townhouse by the river.  He feels a new bridge to divert the truck traffic will be an asset to future downtown development.  He asked if the schedule for replacement can be moved up.

(Willcutt responded that the schedule cannot be faster.) 

Rod Kenyon states he is a lifelong resident of Middleville and very proud of the village.  He stated that in 1948-49 there was a flood which resulted in one foot of water over the bridge.  At that time it was said that water pressure moved the bridge one-half inch.

He feels that removing heavy truck traffic will increase the life of the old bridge and, although the road goes to nowhere, in time it will connect with a major road/highway.

Don Boysen, 5100 Squire Lane (795-3915) advised he is speaking on behalf of Emergency Services as they were not able to attend this hearing.  He read a letter which emphasized that

having one bridge over the river raises concerns about what would happen if the bridge couldn’t be used and essential emergency services were compromised.  A new bridge would enhance their ability to provide adequate response time and protect the well being of the community.

The following letter was read and presented by Mr. Boysen.

Public Hearing 6-10-06

I’m Don Boysen, 5100 Squire Lane, Middleville  Phone 795-3519

I’m also the supervisor of Thornapple Township, but I appear here this morning as a spokesman for the Thornapple Township Emergency Services.  The Chief and the Deputy Chief of the Department are both unable to attend this hearing and I’ve been asked to represent the Service and outline their observations about the proposed project.

The keyword for all emergency services – whether police, fire or ambulance – is response time to an incident.  Getting there with the proper resources in both personnel and equipment is of primary importance in saving lives and property.

With one bridge in Middleville over the Thornapple River, TTES has long been concerned about serving the community – the entire community – if that bridge were compromised in some way.  As has long been pointed out, the minutes to takes to utilize the bridge at Parmalee or Irving if the Middleville Main Street Bridge could not be used, would be potentially devastating.

At the time the Township and Department was contemplating a new fire and ambulance station, many sites were considered.  A new station  either east or west of the river revealed just how important it is to be able to cross the Thornapple River with fire trucks and ambulances – to say nothing for the ability of our on-call volunteers to reach the station  in a timely fashion.

The proposed bridge in alignment with Crane/Finkbeiner Roads would greatly improve TTES’s ability to serve both sides of the Thornapple River in our community.  If, as it has been reported in these hearings, the Main Street Bridge must be closed for a period of time for replacement, a close-by crossing of the river would greatly affect TTES’s ability to provide adequate response times in our service area.

It is, therefore, the feeling of the Thornapple Township Emergency Services command people, that the proposed additional bridge and highway would greatly benefit our ability to protect the well being of the people of our community.

Lon Myers is a lifelong resident of Middleville and President of the Village Council.

He feels it is important to create an alternative route to increase viability of the downtown area.

            Willcutt asked to hear from those who are NEUTRAL (neither opposed

            nor in favor) of the proposed project.

Lucinda Ward, 5011 Whitneyville, inquired about the subterranean soil on the proposed route.  She feels it may be difficult to establish footings, etc.  She asked if other sites have been considered, and states she is basically opposed to the project.

(Willcutt advised feasibility study has not been done and it could affect the decision of where to place the road.)

Willcutt asked if anyone wanted to speak regarding the proposed project.  There were no further public comments.

Willcutt stated the public hearing is closed and the Road Commission Board will at this time consider any motions.

Board deliberated for several minutes reviewing previous minutes as well as those from today’s meeting.

Motion by Willcutt to move to the design phase for the proposed new Thornapple river bridge and improvements to Finkbeiner and Crane roads in Thornapple Township, Barry County, Michigan, with concurrence by the Village of Middleville and Thornapple Township. Pashby supports the motion.  Discussion.  It was explained that this motion would serve as a go ahead to the design of this project – nothing more.  All ayes.  Motion carried.

Willcutt called twice for any further comments by anyone wishing to comment on the proposed project.

Willcutt noted that additional hearings will be held after the design is complete.

Pashby advised residents can get on a mailing or e-mail list and receive updates on the project’s status.

Meeting declared adjourned at 10:38 a.m.

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