Clockwise from left, Belding Area Schools Board of Education President Tom Humphreys, Belding Finance Director Adrienne Barna, Michigan Association of School Boards Assistant Legal Counsel Joel Gerring, Belding Superintendent Sara Shriver, Michigan Employment Relations Commission Fact Finder Roger Cheek, Michigan Education Association Labor Economist Ruth Bier, MEA Research Consultant Craig Culver, MEA Uniserv Director Nancy Valenta, and Belding Education Association Lead Negotiator George Rousseau participate in a fact finding hearing at Belding High School on June 25. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding school, teachers await opinion as contract stalemate continues

Teachers at Belding Area Schools have been without a new contract for exactly one year today. Negotiations between the school district and Belding Education Association (BEA) teachers’ union began shortly before the previous contract expired on June 30, 2014.

Drivers commute along S. Bridge Street on Wednesday afternoon through downtown Belding. The entirety of the street will go through a complete reconstruction beginning in 2016. The project will cost more than $1 million, with $750,000 in funding provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation.  — Daily News/Cory Smith

Belding plans to reconstruct Bridge Street in 2016-2017

This community’s busiest city street is now on the path to receive a complete overhaul. Members of Belding City Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to accept a resolution to support the city’s submission of an application for the reconstruction of S. Bridge Street for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

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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.