EDMORE — A Montcalm County sheriff’s deputy has succeeded a Montcalm County sheriff’s lieutenant as Edmore’s new leader.
Karl Kluwe retired as a sheriff’s patrol lieutenant in 2010. He went to work as Edmore’s manager and police chief from 2010 to 2013, and then again as village president since 2014. He oversaw his final Edmore Village Council meeting in October.
Kotenko took over as village president in November after running unopposed in the general election. Kotenko’s dangerous job as a sheriff’s deputy has been well documented since a convict shot him in the chest with a crossbow in October 2015.
The Edmore community rallied behind Kotenko, supporting him and honoring him as grand marshal of the village’s Potato Festival this past summer.
Kotenko is now working alongside Village Manager Neil Rankin who was originally hired to the job in 2013 but was let go just one year later after the Village Council voted 4-2 not to renew his contract in 2014.
James Lower was hired to succeed Rankin, but he only stayed on the job a little more than a year before running for and being elected to Michigan’s 70th District House of Representatives.
After being rehired by a mostly new village council last March, Rankin now works part-time for Edmore on Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays while splitting his other duties as city manager of Montrose — about 70 miles southeast of Edmore — on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The village has been enjoying a resurgence of new businesses and improvements this past year. Kotenko and Rankin have high hopes for the community as they work side by side.
“Mike sees the big picture,” Rankin said. “He’s worked in other towns and seen other municipalities. He’s been really receptive to lots of ideas.”
“I think that even though Edmore is a small community, it doesn’t mean that we can’t be a progressive community,” Kotenko said. “It’s my hope as village president to work with Neil to make it progressive, to bring businesses here and to see Edmore thrive.”
Last April, the Village Council approved allocating $90,000 toward a USDA Rural Development Block Grant match of $90,000 for the purchase and installation of a $180,000 elevator for the old General Bag Corp. factory building.
The action followed a $625,875 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., matched by $244,125 from the Edmore Downtown Development Authority, for a total investment of $870,000 to renovate the old factory into the Edmore Marketplace.
Village officials envision a tourist attraction similar to Indiana’s Shipshewana, including dozens of vendors selling local goods in the fully restored 1800s-era building, from Amish woodworkers to organic produce to a community reception hall, dining restaurant, tractor shows, horse shows and more.
In June, the Village Council awarded a $1.29 million bid to Griffith Builders, a Lakeview-based general contracting company specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional construction, to oversee the factory renovation project. According to Project Manager Scott Stephens, excavation was recently completed for the new elevator shaft and new stairway and concrete will be poured this week. Multiple joists on the roof need to be repaired and light sandblasting needs to be done to remove old paint.
Masonry work on the outside of the building will begin next spring and portions of the old factory could be open to the community by next summer. The plan is to link the historic building to other amenities, including the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
“My hope is that it will make Edmore a destination and that it will bring much-needed business to our community,” Kotenko said.
“The excitement will really happen when we start working on the outside of the building,” Rankin added. “The community will really notice the external changes.”
Edmore has seen a number of new and expanding businesses this past year.
Last winter, the village’s Department of Public Works relocated to the former Hitachi facility, now known as the Sunrise Center. In October, the Village Council voted to sell the former DPW facility to local business Discount Tool & Equipment for $77,600.
Owner Jay Wood is thrilled with his new digs at 641 E. Gilson St. with frontage on M-46 (he also owns Discount Muffler & Brake in Edmore).
Discount Tool & Equipment, which has been in business about three years, was in critical need of storage room for large equipment.
“We were leasing the previous building, but it was too small and we didn’t have a shop area to work on the equipment,” Wood said. “This was perfect timing. It’s been great.”
A business new to town is The Red Lantern, which opened in mid-October at 504 E. Main St., formerly the home of a Ford dealership and later a church. The store is being rented by a mother and daughter duo from the Six Lakes area, Elaine Smith and Melissa McQueen, and features an eclectic variety of “gathered treasures,” including decor, furniture, clothing and jewelry. The products are provided by vendors, which means the store’s offerings are always changing.
“We’ve had really good feedback so far,” Smith said. “We listen and we ask for advice, like is there anything you’d like to see in the store that you don’t see? We’re hoping we’re bringing people back to the community and that it will make other people want to come to Edmore.”
Mustang Junction has replaced the once vacant bar formerly known as Miller’s Cove and Lucky’s at 526 E. Main St. Mark Hoople, who opened Mustang Junction last May, also owns Silk City Saloon in Belding and the Smyrna Bar. Hoople named his new business in honor of the Montabella Community Schools Mustangs, as well as the village’s railroad junction history. He also owns the building next to the bar and he plans to expand into that facility by creating a game room, possibly featuring an arcade, pool table, pinball machines and shuffleboard.
“I’ve always liked Edmore as far as the people and the location,” Hoople said. “Edmore’s a very friendly community. I’ve had a tremendous response from the community. Edmore is very appreciative, very open and very helpful.”
The long-vacant Marathon gas station at 218 E. Main St. also recently reopened.
“People are taking a chance to reinvest,” Rankin noted. ‘I think the economy has changed a little bit. There are opportunities to establish businesses and grow. Edmore’s a bigger footprint than just the village.”
“We’re right here along M-46, which is a great opportunity for businesses,” Kotenko added. “I’m happy to see our town starting to grow again and I hope that trend continues.”
In April, the Edmore Village Council approved a five-year parks and recreation master plan at a cost of $4,200 from Fleis & Vandenbrink in Grand Rapids. A master plan will allow the village to be more competitive in applying for grant funds in the effort to create more of a bikeable and walkable community. The Village Council also began working on overall capital improvement plan this month.
The village’s Nita Curtis and Glenn Curtis Foundations recently donated more than $60,000 so the village could install a new LED sign near the Curtis Community Center/Village Office this past summer. The sign can be updated via computer and provides information about upcoming village events.
Rankin and the Village Council will attend a Michigan Municipal League session in Bay City on Dec. 7 to receive training about basic local government functions; the roles and responsibilities of elected officials; the Open Meetings Act; the Freedom Of Information Act; and a panel discussion with seasoned elected officials.
Rankin hopes the training session will provide valuable best practices insight into how other state municipalities operate.
“We’re all kind of competing for the same dollars,” he said. “When people want to buy a house, they’re also looking at schools, businesses, amenities. We want to make Edmore that kind of community, a small, close-knit community in Montcalm County. We want to be on the same page and be going in the same direction.”