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News for Monday, December 22, 2008

December 22, 2008 by Matt Loker 

Matt Lori is well on his way to transitioning from sheriff of St. Joseph County to state representative from Michigan’s 59th House District.

Lori, elected on November 4th to succeed term-limited state Representative Rick Shaffer, was sworn in during a ceremonial oath taking Friday morning (December 19th) in the Historic Courthouse in Centreville.

Lori was sworn in by a longtime friend, District Court Judge Jeff Middleton, a longtime friend, as approximately 25 friends and family, including Lori’s wife, Linda, looked on.

Representative Shaffer had planned to attend, but expressed his regrets from Lansing where the House was still meeting after an all-night session.

Looking toward his new career, Lori said, “It’s a big step from 20 years as a county sheriff to a legislator, something I don’t really have any experience at, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ve had about four days or orientation and Rick Shaffer has been very, very, very helpful.”

Lori said, “I’ll not be a stranger” and indicated his intention to be in the district and attend as many community events as he can. He also said he plans on driving to Lansing from his home at Constantine, in line with the practice by his predecessors – Glenn Oxender, Cameron Brown and Shaffer.

Lori said, “I look forward to serving you. Don’t be afraid to contact me, my office. I’ll do whatever I can to help out to make Southwest Michigan a better place to live.”

Regarding Lori and his new position, Middleton said, “I think we’re going to be well served. You’ve got big shoes to fill, but I think both Cass and St Joseph County will be well served.”

Lori has a B.A. in public administration from Western Michigan University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He has served in law enforcement for nearly 30 years.

In a news release about the swearing in, Lori said he is excited to start work in Lansing, but warned of severe difficulties ahead. He said, “We are facing some serious challenges in this state, but I am confident we can work together to find solutions. I will always be open to ideas from the people here at home.”

Lori will officially take office in January so he can complete his term as sheriff. According to Middleton, St. Joseph County Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman will conduct the official swearing in on the first of January.

The 59th House District includes portions of Cass and all of St. Joseph County.

St. Joseph County Sheriff-elect Brad Balk recently completed a two-week training program designed for newly-elected sheriffs and sponsored by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association (MSA).

Balk, who will officially take office on January 1, 2009, satisfied all course requirements and earned a certificate of completion.

MSA Executive Director Terrence Jungel said, “The New Sheriffs’ School consists of two weeks of highly intense training. Graduation from the school proves Sheriff-elect Balk is dedicated to protecting the citizens of St. Joseph County and the Office of Sheriff.”

The New Sheriff’s School, which was held in Lansing from December 8th through 19th, was co-sponsored by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office. Twenty-seven of the 30 county sheriffs who were elected for the first time in November attended the school. Those eligible to attend included four current sheriffs who were appointed to finish out a partial term.

Some of the topics addressed were The Role of the Sheriff, Secondary Road Patrol, Corrections, Crime Victims’ Rights, Mental Health, Community Relations, Preparing a Budget, Freedom of Information Act, The Role of the Undersheriff, Media Relations, Emergency Management, Internal Investigations and Line of Duty Death.

Training was provided by current and retired sheriffs who are experts on the subjects they presented. In addition, these sheriffs served as mentors to the sheriffs-elect, offering advice and sharing their experiences.

Jungel said, “The most effective weapon we have in our arsenal is knowledge. Our goal was to prepare these elected sheriffs for the issues they will face in their new position. Successful sheriffs make our communities safer.”

The Michigan Sheriffs Association is the oldest law enforcement organization in Michigan. Its mission is to ensure the safety and security of Michigan citizens by assisting the elected sheriff’s and their personnel in the development of resources and skills through education and training.

For more information about the MSA – or to support its mission by becoming a citizen member – go to www.michigansheriff.com.

Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), co-chair of the Congressional Auto Caucus, made the following statement Friday (December 19th) following President Bush’s announcement that $17.4 billion in low-interest loans would be available for our domestic automakers.  Immediately following the Senate failure to consider the loan package, Upton called on the White House to make the funds available through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  Over the last week, Upton had been in constant contact with high-level Administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Gutierrez and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, urging that immediate action be taken to save millions of American jobs.

“Since August, we have been ringing the alarm bells that the U.S. auto industry was in desperate need of assistance, and inaction would put millions of workers on the streets and threaten the very core of our nation’s economy.  We were on the brink of catastrophe and the dominoes were starting to fall, but we can all breathe a sigh of relief that three million American jobs are safe for now.

“Make no mistake, these bridge loans are not the no-strings, $300 billion-plus handout that Citibank and AIG received, but rather a $17.4 billion investment in American jobs, with strict guidelines, that will be paid back in full with interest.  Strict requirements for all parties to restructure and belt-tighten were imperative.

“U.S. automakers already have some of the safest, most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road today, and these loans will help enable them to retool and build the next generation of greener vehicles that will surely be at the top of their class and further reduce our dependence on Mideast oil.  The job is far from over, but we are now on the path towards recovery.  This holiday season, three million workers in Middle America now have the peace of mind that, come the New Year, they will have a job and paycheck to help care for their families.”

The Riviera Theatre and A Place In Time are teaming up to stage the first annual “Midnight on Main” New Year’s Eve celebration.

This elegant affair will begin at 8 p.m. Guests will be treated to an array of heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine, and micro-brewed beer with a fabulous midnight dessert display. Liquor will be available for an additional cost.

A tribute to 2008 will be shown on the big screen, with two bands providing entertainment to dance the night away, finishing with a countdown and balloon drop at midnight.

Free shuttle rides home to anywhere in St. Joseph County will be provided by The Community Healing Center in Three Rivers and the St. Joseph County Transportation Authority.

Tickets are available now at the Riviera’s box office from 3 to 10 p.m. – call (269) 278-8068 – or at www.trriviera.com for $40 per person, but the number is limited so make your reservation now!

District Court Judge Jeffrey Middleton was sworn in for another term Friday morning (December 19th) in the Commission Room of the Historic Courthouse in Centreville.

County Clerk Pattie Bender administered the oath of office during the brief ceremony after Middleton conducted a ceremonial swearing in of Matt Lori as the new state representative from Michigan’s 59th House District.

Middleton won another six-year term as District Court Judge in the November 4th general election. He ran without opposition in that election as well as the Republican primary in August.

The Sturgis Fire Department is among five recipients of grants awarded to fire departments in Michigan by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) totaling $157,183.

The grants are from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program to local fire departments and organizations in the state of Michigan.

Nationally, the fiscal year (FY) 2008 AFG awards will provide approximately $500 million to fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations throughout the country.

Greg Cade, administrator of the United States Fire Administration, said, “The Assistance to Firefighters grant programs are the result of a major effort by the federal government to ensure the provision of a solid foundation for local fire and emergency response services. These grants help to ensure the nation’s firefighters have the basic tools and resources necessary to safely perform their responsibilities, and therefore ultimately save lives and continue to protect all residents from fire. ”

The grant to the Sturgis Fire Department – in the amount of $9,048 – will be used for operations and safety.

This round of national fire grants amounts to nearly $16 million dollars.

The AFG program is an important component of the administration’s larger, coordinated effort to strengthen the nation’s overall level of preparedness. The program is designed to enhance response capabilities and to more effectively protect the health and safety of the public with respect to fire and other hazards. The grants enable local fire departments and emergency medical services organizations to purchase or receive training, conduct first responder health and safety programs, and buy equipment and response vehicles.

The AFG is administered cooperatively by two FEMA components – the National Preparedness Directorate and the United States Fire Administration.  The full list of past and current recipients and other Assistance to Firefighter Grant program information is posted on the AFG Web site (www.firegrantsupport.com).

After years of diligent efforts by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and a coalition of historic preservation advocates and elected officials, legislation containing enhancements to Michigan’s rehabilitation tax credit has been sent to Gov. Jennifer Granholm for her signature.  Once signed, the new law will cover rehabilitation projects of historic buildings and expand the potential of historic restoration throughout the state.

“It was a good experience to work with the preservation community to move legislation to protect and preserve Michigan’s unique heritage,” said Sen. Cameron Brown, sponsor of Senate Bill 973. “We share a passion for historic preservation. In addition to placing good public policy on the books, our accomplishment will help spur new job growth through renovation and redevelopment of our historic buildings and structures.  There is no more urgent or pressing issue in our state right now than the need for new job creation. We killed two birds with one stone.”

“These bills will produce hundreds of construction jobs across the state, create vibrant, diverse places to lives, and help Michigan attract and retain talented young professionals to Michigan’s cities, towns and villages,” explained Rep. Steve Tobocman, sponsor of House Bill 6496, which was connected to Senate Bill 973.

Historic preservation is a key component of the state’s cultural economic development strategy, according to Dr. William Anderson, retiring Director of the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. “We are excited to have this new tool to encourage businesses to rehabilitate and adaptively reuse the historic buildings that make Michigan communities unique, attractive places to live, work, and play.”

The new legislation represents a major step forward in creating the kinds of incentives property owners and developers need to invest in historic properties, explained Nancy Finegood, Executive Director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN). “We are excited about the potential this has for stabilizing and enhancing our state’s communities while promoting historic preservation.”

The legislation adds to the types of eligible projects those that that are subject to historic preservation easements, even if they are not in a local historic district, as long as they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or within a National Register historic district.

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