Rare duck sighting makes Fennville a birding hot spot


Matt Igleski of Indiana watches a Tufted Duck float in a pond in Fennville on Tuesday, April 23.

Tripod and camera slug over his shoulder, the man walked up the dirt road leading to the wastewater lagoons in Fennville on Tuesday morning, April 23.

“Is it still here?” he asked a passerby who quickly nodded.

“I could tell by your smile,” the man said as he quickened his pace to reach the top of the hill where a half dozen birdwatchers kept their binoculars and long camera lenses focused on the far end of a pond to see a rare Tufted Duck bob with the cold north wind.

For two days, birders have been flocking to the wastewater lagoons on the east side of the city to catch a glimpse of the duck that normally inhabits the East and West Coasts of the United States.


Birders watch a rare Tufted Duck bob in the Fennville wastewater lagoons at the end of Maple Street on Tuesday, April 23.

Rare find

The ducks reach the northeast from Europe and Iceland, and Alaska and the Pacific Coast from Asia, according to Audubon.org.


The Tufted Duck. Photo courtesy of Audubon.org.

“Although they are turning up more often, they are still considered rare everywhere except western Alaska,” the birding website wrote.

“Who knows if it got lost, pushed off course by a storm,” said Jamie Krupka, keeping his eyes on his scope. “It shouldn’t be here. To have it here is quite rare.”

Word went out over the internet, on Facebook and birdwatching news feeds on Monday, April 22, that the Tufted Duck – Aythya fuligula, to be precise – was hanging out in the small Allegan County city.

“It hit the media,” said Matt Igleski of Hammond, Ind., who saw the posts and hit the road for Fennville. He joined people on Tuesday from Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Holland.

“It’s worth coming to see,” Igleski said.

This was the first time Jill Henemyer of Grand Rapids has seen the duck.

“This bird is really rare,” she said, keeping an eye on the lagoon.

Krupka, vice president of programming for the Outdoor Discovery Center on Holland’s southside, kept tabs on the single duck as it dove beneath the water dotted with other more common waterfowl.

“He’s up again!” Krupka announced, suddenly silencing the murmur of birder group clustered along the dirt road. The half-dozen other watchers whipped their binoculars and cameras to their eyes to catch a glimpse of the duck.



Jamie Krupka watches a Tufted Duck in Fennville on Tuesday, April 23.


The sudden appearance of the feathered celebrity caught the city by surprise as the department of public works was draining the lagoons.

“The city is allowing people to enter the lagoon area to view the duck during business hours 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said City Administrator Amanda Morgan. Visitors can park on the shoulder of South Maple Street – a dirt road south of city hall — and walk up the drive into the lagoons.

“We do ask that they remember that we are currently in the middle of the process to begin discharging our lagoons and access for maintenance vehicles must be maintained,” Morgan said on Monday.

The sewage is collected in the about 30-acre lagoon system, naturally filtered through a series of four treatment ponds and regularly drained into ditches that eventually take it to the Black River then Lake Michigan. The process is regulated by the state.

The birders weren’t sure how long the solo Tufted Duck would remain in town.


Birdwatchers keep their eyes on a rare duck at the Fennville wastewater lagoons on Tuesday, April 23.


In other business: The little things matter – Police, ambulance, cemetery mowing and budget


Fennville Police Department Chief Greg Rekucki, right, poses with officers Ashley Akers, left, and Kate Strong, center, at Fennville City Hall on Monday, April 15.

Fennville City Commission on Monday, April 15:

Police officers: Met the two new part-time Fennville City Police Department officers. Police Chief Greg Rekucki introduced officers Ashley Akers and Kate Strong. “We wanted to put a face to the names of those who are working for us,” said Mayor Tom Pantelleria.

Ambulance service: Approved a bid from AMR for ambulance service for 2019-2024 at a total of $69,660 split between five communities. The cost will increase 4 percent each year. The ambulance company will cover Fennville and Ganges, Lee and Clyde townships and Manlius Township south of the Kalamazoo River.

Cemetery mowing: Approved a contract with Property Revolution LLC of Otsego to mow Fennville Cemetery in 2019. Each mowing will cost $495. If Property Revolution mows the same number of times as the previous company did in 2018, this season’s cost will be $9,900 — $300 more than 2018.

In 2016, EPS & Landscaping Corp. charged $400 per mow for a total of $10,000 for the season. In 2017, EPS charged $500 per mow and the city limited the number of mows, though the final cost was $10,000. In 2018, the city went with Kramer J Services of Douglas at $480 per mow.

“While we only received one bid, the bid amount was not unreasonable compared to previous years,” City Administrator Amanda Morgan wrote in a memo to the commission.

Tennis court: Instructed the city attorney to discover who owns the tennis courts and basketball courts property on Memorial Drive. Fennville Public Schools says it owns the property but the city has long operated under the assumption it owns the land. The courts need to be repaired.

Budget meeting: The Finance and Personnel Committee will meet at 6 p.m. April 29 at City Hall, 222 S. Maple St., to discuss the 2019-2020 budget.

Planning commission: The planning commission is looking for a new member after the resignation of Chuck Pappalardo. He was appointed to the board in January.

City hall closed: City hall will be closed Good Friday, April 19.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Fennville sets goals for upcoming year, focuses on infrastructure, park improvements

The Fennville City Commission formalized its goals for the upcoming fiscal year at the Monday, April 15 meeting.

Infrastructure improvements top the six goals for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The city is spending $7 million on repairs to water, sewer and roads. Work will be paid for with federal and state grants, rate increases and possibly a millage.

Other goals include improvements to Paradise Park, technology updates, grant funding and improved service from the department of public works.

City Administrator Amanda Morgan started the first-ever goal-setting process earlier this month by having commissioners rank their priorities.


The goals for the year:

1: Continue work to execute infrastructure improvements in accordance with the capital improvement plan including:

  • Finalizing plans, bidding contracts and project management for water project beginning in fiscal year 2020.
  • Completing the application for State Revolving Fund funding for sewer projects and completing the necessary steps to secure funding.
  • Finalize plans for road work to be completed on Landsburg Road should grant funding be received from the Michigan Department of Transportation TEDF — Transportation Economic Development Fund.
  • Begin discussions with financial advisor to determine a plan of action for financing the road and storm work proposed in the capital improvement plan, including the possibility of seeking an additional millage.



Pavilions at Paradise Park in Fennville.

2: Begin planning process for improvements to Paradise Park by:

  • Updating and submitting new recreation plan so the city will be eligible for grant funding through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Develop a master plan for Paradise Park and prepare a grant application to the DNR for park and field improvements.



Fennville’s website on March 20, 2019.

3: Update technology to improve customer service, communication with community, staff efficiency and information access.

  • Begin with completing and implementing the upgraded website and included features.
  • Explore options for providing tablets to commissioners to access electronic agenda packets and city-based email accounts.
  • Establish programs to accept credit card payments and to allow customers to access utility and tax information online.
  • Research hardware additions and software upgrades to ensure staff has access to the most up to date technology available.

4: Work toward obtaining status as a Redevelopment Ready Community in an effort to get feedback and grant funding for reviewing and updating long term planning efforts.

  • Establish intent to become a Redevelopment Ready Community and request community assessment.
  • Assess various deficiencies identified through assessment and develop a plan of action for various updates and amendments recommended.
  • Work with the planning commission to amend the current land use plan.




5: Improve the level of service provided by the department of public works.

  • Develop and implement various system maintenance programs such as hydrant flushing and maintenance, valve maintenance, fleet maintenance, sidewalk improvements and maintenance.
  • Work to utilize technology to provide greater access to utility information including the use of geographic information systems.
  • Continuously explore opportunities to complete work in-house and eliminate contracted work items such as cemetery mowing, parking lot plowing, landscaping services.



The tennis courts need repairs but ownership is in question.

6: City administration will continue to research and review the following items:

  • Review contracts and assess level of service provided versus expectations. Rebid as contracts come due to ensure receiving the best services at the best price.
  • Review and update various city policies, rules and regulations including purchasing policy, utility policy, cemetery rules and regulations, investment policy, code of ordinances, zoning ordinance, traffic control orders.
  • Research tennis court property ownership and develop plan for improving the park if city owned.
  • Explore options for single hauler trash services within the city limits and/or review current regulations on trash services.
  • Assess the need for increased police presence in the community through the addition of another full-time police officer.


Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Fennville still studying communitywide junk collection


Fennville City Hall at 222 S. Maple St.

Fennville City needs a little more time before deciding how to handle its first communitywide spring cleanup day in years.

The city asked earlier this month for bids from trash haulers to collect junk from the curb. One company – Republic Services, formerly Chef Container of Holland – responded but not for curbside collection. Republic bid $2,600 for four Dumpsters to be placed in a central location in the city, including $85 per container delivery charge.

Commissioners budgeted $10,000 for the cleanup that would handle certain items such as scrap metal, wood, furniture and other household items. No paints, toxic chemicals, batteries or household trash would be allowed.

City Administrator Amanda Morgan will contact Republic to ask if curbside would be an option later in the season – the city had hoped to do the collection before Memorial Day.

Arrowaste in Georgetown Township did not bid on the project, saying a pickup would not fit in its spring schedule, according to Morgan.

Residents are looking forward to the pickup, according to some commissioners, so the city needs to follow through with the service.

“We have to do something, even if we have to fall back on this,” said Commissioner Shawn Machan at the April 15 commission meeting referring to the Dumpster option.


Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.

In other business: The little things matter – Junk pickup, bids, new fire department tool, message board


A new message board is just outside Fennville City Hall, 222 S. Maple St.

Fennville City Commission on Monday, April 1:

Junk collection: Is waiting for bids to come in for a communitywide trash pickup, most likely the third week of May. Depending on the cost, the one-time service could be a curbside pickup or the city might supply several Dumpsters at a central location for drop-off of items such as scrap metal, wood, furniture and other household items. The service was taken out of the budget several years ago due to cost.

Assessing, auditing: Is bidding out its assessing service and auditing contract. The commission received notice its current assessing firm, Appraisals Plus Group LLC, is increasing its monthly fee from $729.16 a month to $770 a month for a three-year contract. The auditing contract with Gabridge & Company of Grand Rapids has not been bid in several years and commissioners wanted to see if a less expensive alternative is available.

Lucas tool vote: Approved the purchase for $18,000 for a Lucas Chest Compression System for the Fennville Area Fire Department. The CPR device is included in the department’s budget approved last month, but, because the money comes from the capital expenditures account, the purchase needed separate approval from the city. Manlius Township, a partner in the fire department, must also approve the expenditure.

Message board: A new message board has been installed outside city hall, 222 S. Maple St. Notices formerly posted on the city hall door or windows will be displayed on the board near the entrance to the building.

Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.


Lake Michigan levels continue climb; Fennville snow about average

Fennville March numbers:

Highest high: 61.3 degrees on March 14

Lowest low: 6.2 degrees on March 4

Total snow: 5.5 inches

Average snow: 5 inches



Lake Michigan at the South Haven channel in mid-March.


Lake Michigan continued its seasonal increase in March with water levels more than 3.75 inches above last year and more than 22 inches above the long-term average. The trend is expected to continue, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the group that oversees Great Lakes water levels.

“Each of the Great Lakes typically exhibits a seasonal rise in the spring primarily caused by an increase in liquid precipitation, increased runoff due to melting of accumulated snow, and low evaporation rates,” the Corps wrote in its annual Great Lakes Update.

These increases, though, are above average as reflected throughout 2018, according to the Corps annual report on lake levels for 2018.

Lake Michigan-Huron – considered one because they are linked by the Straits of Mackinac – was 15 to 20 inches above its long-term average for all of 2018.

“The water level of Lake Michigan-Huron has been above average every month since November 2014, a streak of 50 consecutive months,” the Corps wrote.

The average March Lake Michigan level was 580.25 feet above sea level, an increase of 1.44 inches from the February level of 580.13 feet.

Last year, Lake Michigan was at 579.93 feet above sea level. This March’s level was 3.84 inches above that and 22.08 inches above the long-term average of 578.41 feet above sea level.


Snowfall was slightly above average in Fennville for March, according to local records.

About 5.5 inches of snow was recorded in the city, a half-inch above the 5-inch average. It snowed eight days during the month.

Fennville followed the West Michigan trend of low snow accumulation, according to records from the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids recorded 7.9 inches of snow, 0.4 inch below normal. Muskegon had 5.2 inches, 3.8 inches below average. Lansing recorded 0.6 inch of snow, 6.4 inches below average.

In March 2018, about 2 inches of snow was recorded in Fennville. In March 2017, about 3.75 inches was recorded for the month. March 2016 had 8 inches of snow.

So far this season, Fennville has seen about 64.25 inches of snow. Average snowfall is about 70 inches.

The highest temperature for March in Fennville was 61.3 degrees recorded at the Michigan State University Trevor Nichols Research Complex on M-89, two miles west of the city. The lowest temperature was 6.2 degrees on March 4. The most rain – 0.53 inches – fell on March 14. The rain total for the month was 2.01 inches.

Fennville commissioners put water, sewer repairs at top of goals list


Fennville City Commissioners, from left, Erik Almquist, Jim Suerth, Danielle Brien and Mayor Tom Pantelleria rank goals during the commission meeting Monday, April 1.

The Fennville City Commission on Monday, April 1, put infrastructure maintenance and repairs at the top of a new list of goals.

The first-time exercise will result in a list of priorities to help the commission and City Administrator Amanda Morgan plan budgets and projects.

“That formulates a plan, the direction the city will go to,” said Mayor Tom Pantelleria.

Morgan compiled a list of 15 topics from earlier commission comments and interviews with staff, including the Department of Public Works. Commissioners on Monday discussed and ranked topics by assigning numbers to the items. The lower the number, the higher the priority.

Some topics overlapped or were dependent on other goals. Morgan will compile the results and present the information at the next commission meeting.

All commissioners ranked the continuation of infrastructure improvements as the top priority. Commissioner Scott Hageman was absent.


The city plans to spend about $7 million on repairs to water and sewer infrastructure and the wastewater lagoons with loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for water work and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the sewer and other repairs, increases in water and sewer rates and a possible millage. Some projects will be linked with state work on Main Street.

The city is also waiting for word on a $171,500 Michigan Department of Transportation grant to fund repaving of 58th Street, Reynolds Street and Landsburg Road. The grant would require a match from the city of $85,750.

Other goals

Other top-ranked goals include completing a website upgrade, finishing a recreation plan and playground master plan and updating technology to improve resident service.

Other topics on the list include an updated land use plan, establishing ownership of the tennis court property, reviewing policies and procedures, examining contracts, developing system maintenance programs, exploring a single-hauler trash service and expanding the police department.


Follow Jim Hayden on Twitter @jimhayden49408.

Jim Hayden is a member of the Fennville City Commission. This blog does not represent the views of the commission or the city. Information is from public comments during open meetings and public documents available through the Freedom of Information Act.