2/8/2023: A county official under oath

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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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Problems are mounting for Kalamazoo County’s treasurer. Commissioners want him to report on county finances under oath ahead of the county’s annual audit. Also: The state’s attorney general is investigating a series of false active shooter reports at schools across Michigan. And downtown Kalamazoo will get a new bike lane later this summer.

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County leaders want treasurer under oath

As Kalamazoo County’s annual audit approaches, county commissioners have taken the unusual step of requiring the treasurer to make a report on the county’s finances while under oath. County Treasurer Thomas Whitener has come under fire repeatedly for mistakes and mismanagement in his department. He was a no-show during last night’s commission meeting when he was expected to make an update on problems with personnel, a new accounting program they’re using, and his own failures to get reports done in time for review. Chair John Taylor said it’s “critical” that their books be in order when auditors come in. “If we have any material breaches or material comments on that, that would be something that would affect our credit rating,” he said.

Whitener, who was elected treasurer in 2020, came to the position with no experience running a financial department. Last year, several mistakes led then-chair Mike Quinn to ask for his resignation. When he refused, the county hired an outside accounting firm at $150 per hour to help get the county’s books in order. County Administrator Kevin Catlin said he is working closely with those accountants to get reporting in order before the audit begins. Whitener will be required to give his report during the board’s next meeting on Feb. 21.

More News You Need To Know

State investigating false active shooter reports at several Michigan schools

A call came in to the Portage Department of Public Safety at 9:35am yesterday. The voice on the other end of the line claimed there was a shooter at Portage Northern High School. Police got to the school within 90 seconds and quickly discovered the report was false. That same scenario played out in at least five other school districts across the state.

Now the state Attorney General’s office is investigating. Attorney General Dana Nessel suggested the incidents may be an instance of “swatting.” That’s when somebody makes a false report to emergency services either as a prank or in order to harass someone. “Whether these are real threats made by those intent on doing harm or pranks made by kids trying to get a day off, they are real crimes with real consequences,” said Nessel. Those consequences could include prison time and hefty fines. In the case of Portage, the school went into lockdown briefly before students were allowed to go about their day. Other districts ended the school day early and sent their students home. [MLive, Michigan Radio]

Fewer cars, more bikes on Michigan Ave.

A new project to slow car traffic through downtown Kalamazoo will result in fewer vehicle lanes and one more bike lane along Michigan Avenue. The project is slated to begin this summer. It would whittle the five-lane, one-way road down to three lanes and add a bike lane protected by a lane of parking. The road will also be repaired and repainted. Traffic Engineer Dennis Randolph told MLive that Michigan Avenue needs to patched up before work begins on Kalamazoo Avenue, which is a major thoroughfare going in the opposite direction.

Both roads are slated to become two-way streets eventually. Kalamazoo Avenue will go first, sometime in the next couple years. A major reconstruction on Michigan Avenue isn’t expected to get underway until 2026-2028. In the meantime, engineers are looking to try out new bicycle-friendly features. Ultimately, the work is meant to make downtown Kalamazoo safer for drivers and pedestrians. “We want people to start getting used to slower lanes, slow it down,” said Randolph. [MLive]

Economy, safety top priorities for Kzoo city residents

Officials with the City of Kalamazoo have a better idea of what residents think is most important in their hometown. That’s thanks to a community survey conducted last fall. The results are in and city commissioners explored the findings during their meeting Monday night. Major priorities for city residents include the economy, safety, and education.

But respondents don’t feel overwhelmingly positive about a lot of things going on in Kalamazoo. Most people who completed the survey said the cost of living is a problem, as is the affordability of housing. A lack of affordable housing has been an ongoing problem in Kalamazoo, as well as in much of the rest of the country. Most respondents also feel there could be improvement in education in Kalamazoo. On the flip side, most of the people who answered the survey said they feel safe in the city most of the time. As many as 4 out of 5 people said they feel safe in their neighborhoods during the day. And 54% of respondents rated Kalamazoo’s public safety department as excellent or good. [WWMT]

NowKalamazoo Partner Event
Sounds of the Zoo and Raising Hope logos

A Benefit Concert for The Tiny House Pilot Project

The Skeletones | Samuel Nalangira | Headband Henny
Thursday, Feb. 16
6:30pm @ Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
10 | 21+

A night of live music in the Bell’s Back Room raising money for the Tiny Houses of HOPE Pilot Project, an affordable housing project in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood. It’s part of an ongoing series by Sounds of the Zoo to increase visibility of local artists and the music scene.

Photos of performing artists Samuel Nalangira, Headband Henny, and The Skeletones.

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 2/8

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Presents Craft Music – Bell’s Eccentric Café
7:00PM 2/8

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 2/8

Dooley Live – O’Duffy’s Pub
7:00PM 2/8

Happy Hour with Steve – The Park Club
4:30PM 2/9

The Great Leap – Farmers Alley Theatre
7:30pm 2/9-11, 2pm 2/12

Karaoke – Shakespeare’s Pub
8:30PM 2/9

Comedy Open Mic – Valhalla Kalamazoo
9:00PM 2/9

Author Hop: Local Book Sale, Live Music, Prize Drawing – Portage District Library
5:00PM 2/10

Music with Steve Kamerling – Brick + Brine
6:00PM 2/10

Green Door Distillery Tour – Green Door Distilling Co.
6:00PM 2/10

Emma Rey Duo – Green Door Distilling Co.
7:00PM 2/10

Valentine’s Trivia Night – Bell’s Eccentric Café
7:00PM 2/10

Clybourne Park – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
7:30pm 2/10-11; 2pm 2/12

First Date – Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
7:30pm 2/10-11, 2/17-18; 2pm 2/12, 2/19

Sean Miller – Final Gravity Brewing Co.
8:00PM 2/10

See more upcoming events here.

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