OUR VIEW: We’re not couch 
potato communities


By Daily News • Last Updated 10:45 pm on Friday, December 02, 2011

A saying goes: If you’re sitting still, then you’re falling behind.

Our communities collectively could sit back and watch things happen. But the world is always changing. We need to not only keep up with that change but find ways to get ahead of it.

Stopping investments for the future and becoming complacent are easy in the difficult economy we’re enduring right now. Coming up with the money now that will pay dividends into the future is definitely more difficult. Coming up with reasons why we shouldn’t be making these investments now is much easier.

Thankfully, our communities are still looking and moving forward. For example:

• Belding Area Schools are in the midst of a $38.8 million project to expand and modernize its buildings. The centerpiece is a bigger and better Belding High School.

The high school was constructed decades ago using different architectural designs and construction processes than are common now. The building’s systems and infrastructure were nearing the end of their useful life.
The project will set up the district for decades of quality learning with the most up-to-date equipment in much more appealing buildings. That’s important for attracting residents to town.

Voters in February 2010 approved extending the district’s 7-mill facilities tax levy by 15 years from 2025 to 2040.

• Greenville Public Schools is working on a $14 million project to improve safety, security and technology in most of its buildings. A new $6.5 million football stadium also is being dug into the ground behind Greenville High School.

Again, the safety, security and technology upgrades are necessary to keep up with the times. Schools don’t need to be prisons, but they shouldn’t be as easy to access as Greenville schools are. Technology is evolving rapidly and the schools need to provide students with an education that prepares them for what graduates encounter in the real world.

Much has been written about the football stadium. Suffice to say, it is the right project at the right time.

Voters will continue paying the district’s 7-mill facilities property tax levy a few years along. Although, that rate will begin falling in a couple years.

• Spectrum Health United Hospital in Greenville is working on a $12 million expansion and renovation to completely remake its Emergency Department and Diagnostic Imaging Center.

Both parts of the project are needed to keep up with a growing number of patients going through the doors each year. The Greenville hospital more and more is becoming a destination serving patients from far outside the city with a wider array of services. Expanded facilities are necessary to support that growth.

The community is being asked to support a $3 million capital campaign to pay for the project.

• This year witnessed the completion of both the 42-mile Fred Meijer Heartland Trail from Greenville to Alma and the 6.5-mile Fred Meijer Flat River Trail encircling Greenville.

Both trails contribute to our quality of life and tourism. Grants and generous donations over the years paid for the Heartland Trail while grants and city capital improvement funds paid for the Flat River Trail.

• Edmore is working on a major project to rehabilitate the former General Bag Corp. factory into a destination and showpiece for the village.
An Amish crew is replacing the roof to make way for a year-round indoor marketplace featuring an array of locally produced Amish goods. A new farmer’s market also is planned in the building. When complete, it will be a major draw for Edmore.

• Stanton is embarking on a multi-million dollar upgrade to its water and sewer systems. Both were woefully behind with maintenance and, as City Manager James Freed tells it, one step away from shutting down completely.

The planned upgrades, which residents will pay for in higher rates, will bring the infrastructure back into long-term viability.

There is an arm-length list of reasons why all of these projects shouldn’t happen right now. They cost a lot… The added cost is too much… Tax and rate increases will be too much… Families are hurting and these higher costs are just adding to their pain… Costs for everything are increasing while wages are stagnant…

All of those are great reasons to sit back and do nothing. However, all of these projects are necessary if we expect our towns to remain viable for generations to come.

If our schools don’t stay current, our children will not be able to compete in the global labor force and our towns will suffer.

If our hospital doesn’t grow and provide the best care available, another one will and siphon patients away.

If we don’t enhance our own quality of life and provide excellent recreational opportunities, people will find towns that do and move there.

If we don’t keep our infrastructure in solid working order, no business will move here. In a worst case scenario, the utilities will shut down and basically make living here hazardous.

Thankfully all of our towns have leadership in place looking at the present and the future — moving us from where we were to where we are and where we ought to be next year and years from now. We’re not sitting still or merely keeping up with the rate of change. We’re staying ahead.

Future generations will thank us.

Editorial opinions are a consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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