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Every drop in the bucket helps fund ALS research PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge has swept the nation, and Holyoke is no exception.

Millions have accepted the challenge to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The challenge has gone viral, as videos of each person or group are posted to social networking sites and then friends or family are tagged and dared to accept the challenge themselves.

Originally, those challenged were required to complete the ice bucket dumping within 24 hours along with a $10 donation to the ALS Association, or to stay away from the icy water, one could donate $100 instead.

While not everyone who posts a video actually donates, the popular challenge has still made a huge impact, one drop at a time.

Second-grader Tyler Bergstrom, at left, prepares for an icy cold impact, while his seventh-grade brother Hunter Bergstrom gets completely drenched during their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last Sunday, Aug. 24, in Holyoke. Their video will join millions of others on social media, which has propelled the Ice Bucket Challenge to go viral across the world, spreading awareness and raising funds for the ALS Association in their search for treatments and a cure for the fatal disease.  

—Enterprise photo

According to the ALS Association website, it received $79.7 million in donations as of Monday, Aug. 25, in comparison to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29-Aug. 25). These donations have come from existing donors as well as 1.7 million new donors.

Mallori Burnett, a 2004 HHS grad whose mother, Gogi Noel, died of ALS in 2011, said her family is very grateful for all the publicity the Ice Bucket Challenge is getting. “It is helping to spread information about this disease and make people aware of how people are actually affected by it,” she said.

“We are overwhelmed with joy the number of donations that have been made to help progress with the research to one day find a cure,” Burnett added. “We are very humbled by all of the people that have helped to make my mother’s memory live on!”

1979 HHS graduate Tim Gribben is also being remembered through local Ice Bucket Challenges, which honor his four-year battle with ALS and his death in 2009.

Celebrities, athletes, politicians and local community members of all ages have all jumped on board the Ice Bucket Challenge, which began just a month ago.

Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball star, was the inspiration for the Ice Bucket Challenge. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, and even though he has lost his voice due to the disease, his efforts to raise awareness for ALS can now be heard around the world.

And the challenges seem to be getting bigger and better! The Holyoke softball team couldn’t just fill up a couple of buckets of water. Instead, they filled an entire semitruck full of water and lined up to brave the cold water as it came splashing down.

Some staff members at Holyoke Elementary School accepted the challenge in front of 300 young students, taking the opportunity to educate the children about Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

What is ALS?

According to the ALS Association website, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. When these cells die, voluntary muscle control and movement dies with them. In the later stages of the disease, patients are totally paralyzed, but in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert.

Two to five years is the average life expectancy of a person from the time they are diagnosed with ALS. An average of 15 people are diagnosed with the disease every day—more than 5,600 per year. It most commonly strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70.

It is called Lou Gehrig’s Disease because Gehrig brought international attention to the disease in 1939 when it ended his baseball career with the New York Yankees.

The ALS Association has committed more than $67 million to find effective treatments and a cure for ALS.

Holyoke Enterprise August 28, 2014

Officer pay increase may help enforcement PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

Multiple guests were in attendance to present their support for the proposed police officer wage increase as well as to make a call to action at the Holyoke City Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Dottie Drake led the visitors with an in-depth account of how her family has been affected by the current wages and extra-duty assignments that officers receive resulting from the department being understaffed. She also detailed the numerous school programs her husband, officer Larry Drake, has developed and how he has a close relationship with students in the school district.

Following Drake’s comments, Andrea McCallum and José León offered thoughtful support for the officers.

“It’s really great when you see things they’re doing to make your community safer,” McCallum said. “Then to hear that good officers are scraping the bottom of the barrel to make it work, it makes me sad.”

Both McCallum and León pointed out that they were unaware that the police officers were so underpaid, especially in relation to other departments in the region.

“It’s hard to believe,” León added. “We should do more to keep them here.”

The council agreed to boost current officer wages an additional $500 per month. This follows an Aug. 5 decision to raise starting officer salaries from $27,000 to $30,500. The Holyoke Enterprise incorrectly reported the new starting salary two weeks ago.

“We will make up a schedule of steps for officers from when they first walk in the door until they reach the sergeant position,” councilmember David Churchwell mentioned.

Police Chief Doug Bergstrom announced he has received two résumés for new officers and will continue to take résumés until Sept. 5. However, he does not expect to have a new hire on the force until late October.


Junk issues discussed

Other community members were present to voice their concerns regarding the junk ordinance not being enforced in the 200 block of South Belford Avenue and the 200 block of South Reynolds Avenue.

Similar accounts were shared by those in attendance. Some descriptions quoted included “unsafe,” “nuisance” and “disorderly conduct.”

“It brings the value of homes around it down,” Duanna Bradley said.

Bill Bradley, Lynda Hagemann and Denise Hagemann also were present to comment on the issue.

Bergstrom noted that on Aug. 4 an ordinance with a 20-day action period was presented to the offending parties. A citation was to have followed if the matter was not handled within that time frame.

City Attorney Al Wall suggested an abatement proceeding be considered. This process would authorize the city to take action if the property owners do not. The council agreed to move forward with the abatement process and to make it a point to focus on further areas of town in the future.

“We’ve voted raises for the officers. I think we need to see some production,” Mayor Orville Tonsing said regarding cleaning up the problem areas. “I think it’s well past time.”


KCI negotiations stalled

KCI representatives were not present at the council meeting, but they had given a response stating they could not afford the council’s offer of $500 per month for KCI to rent space to install equipment on the Holyoke water tower.

KCI stated that $130 per month was the best it could do. Negotiations are still pending.


Officials report

City superintendent Mark Brown ran through the recent power outages, deeming them to be caused by wind and lightning.

He noted that new power fuses have been installed on South Worley Avenue near the construction of new duplexes.

Brown commended everyone who worked on the well at the city park when it burned out on Aug. 13, saying they made a fast turnaround and all is fixed and working properly.

A water main break near the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Kellogg Street was also promptly repaired, something León highly commended city workers on as well.

Brown was delighted to confirm that the Holyoke Swimming Pool repairs also have been completed following the flooding of the pool basement on July 22, and the pool is operational.

Brown gave notice that all engineering data has been received for restructuring and repair of South Sherman Avenue, but the work will likely be held up until 2015.

Bergstrom stated that no progress has been made in acquiring asbestos cleanup permits for the trailers at the mobile home park west of the airport.


Other business

In other business Aug. 19, the council:

­—decided to withdraw the proposal for a lodging tax.

—noted a new groundskeeper, Jeff Reitz, began work at the Holyoke Golf Course Aug. 18.

­­­—approved a special events permit for Phillips County Pheasants Forever on Nov. 8.

—agreed to pay 2014 membership dues to Phillips County Economic Development in the amount of $10,900.

—approved a $15,000 stipend for the Holyoke Golf Course to be used for the purchase of mowing equipment and maintenance materials.

—learned that the Great Outdoors Colorado grant application for baseball park improvements was completed and a decision should be received by December.

—created a committee consisting of council members Churchwell, Kevin Scott, Brian Akey and attorney Wall to devise an informational briefing to educate the community on council term limits.

—noted the construction of a new Viaero Wireless tower near the hospital.



 Holyoke Enterprise August 28, 2014

Tharp appointed to school board PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Jeff Tharp was appointed by Holyoke School District Re-1J board president Kris Camblin to fill the board vacancy created by the resignation of Kim Killin.

The appointment was made at the Aug. 19 board meeting after three motions for appointing candidates all failed on 3-3 votes. Tharp will serve until November of 2015, at which time a two-year term will be on the ballot to complete what was Killin’s board term.

Four other board terms expire in 2015. Linda Jelden and Jon King will be term-limited and ineligible to seek re-election. Michelle Van Overbeke and Dennis Herman will be finishing their first four-year term at that time.

Board members reiterated the strength of all three candidates for the open board position.

An initial motion to appoint Dusty Sprague to the board vacancy found Pat Wiebers, Van Overbeke and Jelden in favor and Herman, Camblin and King opposed.

The next motion to appoint Nici Bishop was supported by King, Camblin and Van Overbeke, with Herman, Jelden and Wiebers voting no.

A third motion to appoint Tharp found Herman, King and Camblin in favor, with Jelden, Van Overbeke and Wiebers opposed.

Due to the lack of majority vote for any candidate, law required that the board president make the appointment since it has been more than 60 days since the vacancy was declared.

In making the appointment, Camblin emphasized how hard the decision was. He pointed out that Tharp, who was term-limited in 2013, had been elected by the community to the board post twice before.

He encouraged Sprague and Bishop to seek election in 2015 to let the public decide through a vote. Camblin also said he would like to see both serve on one of the smaller committees of the school district. Tharp will not be eligible to put his name on the ballot for a board position until 2017.


Other business

In other business Aug. 19, the Re-1J board:

—noted that the Sept. 2 and 16 meetings will begin at 8 p.m. A welcome reception for new teachers has tentatively been set for 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 16.

—accepted the resignation of John Zilla from his head high school baseball coaching position and of elementary school paraprofessional Jason Wendling.

—hired Ana Trejo as a full-time one-on-one paraprofessional to work in the high-needs special education classroom at Holyoke Elementary.

—approved second reading of board policy KFA on public conduct on district property.

Holyoke Enterprise August 28, 2014

School looks to refinance bonds, go for mill levy override election PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

With mill levy relief of about two mills in a potential bond refinance, Holyoke School District Re-1J Board of Education prepares for a mill levy override question on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Two representatives from the banking firm George K. Baum explained details of the refinancing opportunity at a work session prior to the Aug. 19 school board meeting.

Michael Persichitte noted that the district has about $1 million remaining on outstanding bonds from the 1998 junior high addition bond election.

He pointed out that the IRS allows advance refunding only once, and that occurred in 2005. So the proposal is for current refunding. He noted investors are looking for safe investments, and Holyoke School District qualifies as such.

Refinancing the bonds will amount to a savings of about $37,000 a year in payments which extend through 2021. It will allow the board to lower the bond levy assessed on the public by two mills. The current year’s 4.250 bond redemption fund mill levy would look to reduce to 2.250 mills next year.

Looking to have a board resolution for refinancing passed at the Sept. 2 meeting, Persichitte said the info could be with rating agencies shortly thereafter. So bond sales could probably close by the end of September or early October.

The board looks to approve a parameters resolution on Sept. 2 to allow George K. Baum to sell bonds, provided that the interest rate is no greater than a certain amount and that total savings will not fall below a certain amount. If for some reason the market would change drastically before the bonds would go on the market, there is a safeguard for the district and the refinance would be halted.

Asked why someone would not want to refinance bonds, Persichitte said if a district was going to pay off the bonds, they could wait another year and do that. Superintendent Bret Miles noted that with $1 million remaining on Holyoke’s outstanding bonds, the district doesn’t have enough cash to pay off the bonds early, so refinancing makes sense.

In other cases, Persichitte said boards are simply against debt, so they don’t refinance.

Miles said that George K. Baum has been a great partner in recent years, even when the district hasn’t been doing a project or a bond.


Mill levy override question to be placed on ballot

Also on the topic of finances at last week’s meeting, the school board directed Miles to have a ballot resolution prepared to ask the community to support a mill levy override of 2.5 mills for five years. The ballot question will be on the board’s Sept. 2 meeting agenda for approval.

A successful 2010 mill levy override election approved 7.5 mills. Within that approval, 4.5 mills will continue for 10 years. However, another three mills was just approved for five years in 2010. That three mills goes away in 2016, and the board’s mill levy override question will be asking for a new 2.5 mills, starting Jan. 1, 2016.

The overall impact on taxpayers with the five-year mill levy override election and the two-mill drop in the bond redemption fund mill levy will be a mill levy drop of 2.5 mills.

Miles explained that the general fund mill levy is frozen in state statute, and Holyoke’s 27 mills is at the floor for mill levies. If the proposed 2.5 mill override is approved by voters, the school district’s mill levy would drop from 38.75 to 36.25 mills.

Community member Rick Miles asked for clarification on the mill levy override question and was assured that the 2010 question is not being changed. It is a new mill levy override question that will go on the 2014 ballot.

As the board prepares for the mill levy override election, they noted it gives them an opportunity to ask voters to continue to support the school while seeing an overall tax decrease.

Board member Dennis Herman noted that they realize the ag economy was much better in 2010 when the mill levy override was approved. They’re working hard to make the proposed mill levy override palatable.

Michelle Van Overbeke added that the district was able to keep up with the worsening climate in school finance because of the 2010 mill levy override.

Holyoke Enterprise August 28, 2014