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Belding approves performance based pay bonus for teachers

Belding teachers who receive a “highly effective” rating on their evaluation by school administrators will now receive bonus pay as a reward for their efforts. During Monday evening’s Belding Area Schools Board of Education meeting, board members voted 5-0 to approve a resolution to implement performance based pay.

Ionia County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Julie Calley gives her opinion about the Central Area Michigan Works Consortium while commissioners Jack Shattuck, left, and Scott Wirtz, center, listen Tuesday. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

Ionia County leaves four-county Michigan Works for Region 4 agency

Ionia County is leaving a four-county employment service agency for a new 13-county arrangement. In a split vote Tuesday night, the Ionia County Board of Commissioners voted against staying with the Central Area Michigan Works Consortium (CAMWC) — which serves Gratiot, Ionia, Isabella and Montcalm counties — in favor of realigning with a yet-to-be-finalized Michigan Works agency in Region 4, which encompasses 13 counties.

Encounter Community Church Lead Pastor Rob Lawrence greets members of the church’s congregation Sunday afternoon at the future sight of a $260,000 expansion to provide more space for the church’s sanctuary. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding’s Encounter Community Church finds room to grow

Just a few years ago, Encounter Community Church was on the verge of shutting its doors for good. Citing low attendance and struggling to survive after opening in 2007, Pastor Rob Lawrence said the church was at a crossroads and faced an uncertain future.

An image of the original Whites Bridge, superimposed onto an image of the crossing after the bridge burned down, delivers a picture of what the replica covered bridge may look like. — File graphic

Whites Bridge will rise again: Replica bridge to be built in 2016

Like the phoenix of Greek mythology, rising from its ashes to be reborn again, so too will the historic Whites Covered Bridge. Destroyed by arson on July 7, 2013, the Whites Bridge Historical Society recently announced the bridge will be replaced with a replica bridge, as early as next year.

From left, Belding foreign exchange student host parents George and Shannon Rousseau, exchange student Thale Kongsteim-Kokkim, 17, of Tønsberg, Norway, exchange student Victoria Reis, 17, of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, exchange student César Gabriolli, 16, of São Paulo, Brazil, and host parent Patricia Loser applaud during a Belding school board meeting in March after a resident pleaded that a policy be adopted to allow foreign exchange students to participate in the high school graduation commencement ceremony. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding exchange student policy change comes after staff-wide vote

Mia Kaarstein, a foreign exchange student at Belding High School, received an email this week that will now allow her to “have it all.” On Wednesday, the 18-year-old was sitting in a classroom with her fellow senior students, all of whom will soon be dressed in caps and gowns participating in their graduation commencement ceremony less than a month away … all of them, except for Kaarstein.

From right, Belding Area Schools Board of Education President Tom Humphreys and Superintendent Sara Shriver listen as Belding resident Karin Stephens addresses the board Monday with concerns about the state of the contract negotiations between the school district and Belding Education Association teachers union. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding schools dispute leads to third-party fact checker

After nearly 10 months, talks of a new contract between Belding Area Schools and the Belding Education Association (BEA) are no closer to a resolution. Eight negotiation sessions, three failed tentative agreements and several standing-room-only attended school board meetings later, the process will now be observed by a third-party fact checker.

From left, Belding City Councilman Jerry Lallo recognizes Belding Area Schools Athletic Director Joel Wilker, Belding resident Rick Beckett, girls varsity basketball coach Brad Wilson and (not pictured) boys varsity basketball coach Michael Redell with the Good Neighbor Award for organizing the “Fill the Gym” event at Belding High School. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding’s ‘Fill the Gym Night’ organizers recognized

Who could ask for better neighbors than those who bring together 1,400 people in a celebratory event overflowing with community pride? It’s been two years since a Good Neighbor Award was bestowed upon a resident or group organization in this community by the Belding City Council, but January’s “Fill the Gym Night” at Belding High School caught the attention of Councilman Jerry Lallo.

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Greenville/Belding trail connection part of final project to connect 125 miles

Trail lovers will soon have access to 125 miles of Michigan trails starting right from Jackson’s Landing Park in Greenville.

During the latest Greenville City Council meeting, the council voted in favor of applying for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Trust Fund grant to complete a portion of the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail-Trail from Greenville to Belding.

Belding High School teacher Alisha Hummel holds up a sign that reads “Belding teachers work hard for students, want a fair contract” as she pleads with members of the Belding Area Schools Board of Education Monday evening to reach a “fair contract” with the Belding Education Association teachers’ union. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding teachers continue to plea for ‘fair’ deal

In the middle of an eight-month conflict of failed teacher contract negotiations, it was the voice of a young sixth grade student that brought people to their feet in unanimous applause Monday evening. Allyson May, 12, a student at Belding Middle School, approached the podium during the public comment portion of the Belding Area Schools Board of Education Meeting in the Belding High School Performing Arts Center auditorium.

Charles Ring, 78, was found dead inside his home Saturday morning at 8401 Canfield Road in Orleans Township as firefighters responded to a structure fire at the residence. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Orleans Township man dies in Saturday morning blaze

An early morning structure fire claimed the life of its homeowner Saturday shortly after he called 911. Charles Ring, 78, was near the door of his home when firefighters responded to a structure fire at his residence.