Mattawan school board approves start of technology upgrade

MATTAWAN, Mich., (Kalamazoo Gazette) Netech Corp., of Grand Rapids, was awarded the $773,056 contract to install computer-network infrastructure linking all buildings and capable of supporting data, voice, video-security and other services. The project also will pave the way for a wireless campus.

“Wireless is in the next major round of equipment purchases,” said Alex Ellingsen, senior technology designer at Secant Technologies. “We are actually starting one layer down the wedding cake with wired infrastructure.”

The board also approved a $120,000 project to update data wiring and electrical service in the district’s 18 wiring closets and add additional cable for 10 computer labs.
“If you ever have a chance to walk back to a wiring closet, which is where all the cables come back, Mattawan is like a lot of facilities: They were not meant to be wiring closets,” Ellingsen said.

“Modern buildings design wiring closets into their plans. But these (wiring closets in Mattawan schools) are (former) custodial closets, book-storing rooms or furnace rooms. So we’ve been using those spaces, but they are not secure or environmentally clean, and they don’t have their own power.”

The board also heard presentations about two other projects. Project 2209 involves the installation of a battery backup for the computer network equipment and equipment to support a move to a Voice Over Internet Protocol phone system.

The board also approved the hiring of Quentin Solis as a part-time English teacher at Mattawan High School. Solis moved to the area in 2004 after teaching high school English in Iowa. He has recently worked as a substitute teacher in Mattawan and at Lake Michigan College.

Other business included approving a short-term loan of $1.75 million to borrow against anticipated state aid. The loan is to pay for the cost of beginning the new school year.

MPI Research co-hosting cell-based therapy summit

MATTAWAN, Mich., (Kalamazoo, Gazette) MPI Research of Mattawan will hold its second annual educational summit this month to bring together scientists and academics who are working on cell-based therapies.

MPI, a preclinical contract research organization, and Wisconsin-based WiCell Research Institute, the home of the national stem-cell bank, are co-sponsoring the summit, set for Aug. 15 through 17 at Brook Lodge in Augusta.

The focus is “Advances in Therapeutic Discovery and Drug Development: Preclinical Cell-Based Therapy Research.”

“It’s a collaborative educational summit to bring a cross-representation of the folks in the industry that are working on the therapies, and academics as well, to get everyone talking so that they can learn from each other and best advance these sorts of therapies in an expeditious fashion,” said Allen J. Rogers, director of marketing at MPI Research.

Fifteen experts from industry, regulatory agencies and academia will talk about recent advances in therapeutic areas related to cardiology, neurology, endocrinology and oncology. The summit also will feature presentations on cell imaging, preclinical study design and regulatory considerations, among other issues.

“We make learning and innovation a top priority in our company,” summit facilitator Jia En Chin, director of drug-discovery services at MPI Research, said in a statement. “Our annual summit provides a forum for scientists from the private and public sectors as well as universities to share perspectives and learn about key developments in their field. It is a dynamic, exciting environment.”

The summit’s smaller setting is unique. Instead of involving hundreds of people, the summit is open to 85 to 90 people, including approximately 40 from Michigan, Rogers said.

“There are similar sorts of forums around the country that we are competing with, but what we are trying to provide here is an intimate venue with some world-renown experts that really allow them to talk to each other and collaborate,” Rogers said.

“I think there is a certain degree of excitement about the summit,” he said. “There is a lot of excitement overall in the scientific community with respect to the potential of stem-cell therapies.”

For more information about the summit, go online to

Mattawan spends $12,800 for new water, sewer controls

MATTAWAN, Mich., (Kalamazoo Gazette)–With aging technology and a federally mandated new arsenic-treatment plant on the way, the village of Mattawan has decided it is a convenient time for a water and sewer controls upgrade.

“When the water-treatment project came along, we decided at that time that we were going to upgrade our controls to a more 20th-century system,” said Tom Anthony, Department of Public Works superintendent.

The Village Council has been preparing for a new arsenic-treatment plant expected to cost about $2 million. The federal government recently lowered the guidelines for the arsenic percentage in water from 50 parts per 1 billion gallons to 10 parts per 1 billion gallons.
Currently the village’s arsenic percentage is 12 parts per 1 billion gallons forcing the need for the new arsenic plant. Since the arsenic-treatment plant project won’t begin construction until fall, Anthony has received approval from the council to move forward on a water-and-sewer controls project.

The village plans to replace its current System Control Data Acquisition system, which monitors the water and sewer system. The current system, from 1998, has had problems over the years.

By replacing the outdated system, the village also will update security measures at facilities to a video system that will take video if entry alarms are set off. The video clips are then automatically sent via the Internet to designated contacts including Anthony and the Police Department. The high level of security brings Mattawan in line with the latest domestic anti-terrorism measures.

“With the society that we now live in with the scare of terrorism, the upgrades are a necessary to make sure that we are secure,” Anthony said.

The new system features a radio-communication alert that replaces the dedicated phone-line alert system currently in place. By getting rid of the dedicated phone line, village officials estimate the new system will pay for itself in about 5 to 10 years.

”I think Mattawan is ahead of the curve especially with the new camera system,” Anthony said. “We will be a demo site for the new system. Everybody has entry alarms which will call you if doors open, but very few places have camera systems that will send you the pictures off site.”

The cost of the new system is $12,800. The system will be installed by EL Controls, of Kalamazoo, and will be completed before fall.

Mattawan council amends ordinance for MPI Research

MATTAWAN — The Mattawan Village Council convened a Zoning Board of Appeals session July 9before the council’s regular business meeting to discuss amending a zoning ordinance for MPI Research.

MPI plans to install new exhaust fans designed to “shoot the smells higher in the air for safety reasons,” MPI representative Ken Coets said.

At issue is the 55-foot height at which the new fans are to be installed. The Mattawan zoning ordinance restricts building height to 50 feet.
The Zoning Board heard concerns from residents that the village does not own a firetruck equipped with a ladder to handle any height above 50 feet. The Mattawan Fire Department is searching for a new truck that could accommodate the increased height.

However, it was made clear that surrounding fire departments could help the village if an emergency should occur.

Zoning Board members referred to a precedent and saw no imminent threat to safety posed by changing the ordinance to accommodate MPI’s fans.

“We haven’t had anything to indicate that it’s a hazard,” Village Attorney Scott Graham said.

Citing previously mentioned concerns for safety, only Councilwoman Margot Bemer voted against the ordinance change.

Bids for asenic plant sought

During the regular council meeting, Village Engineer Karl Freed told council members that bids could be submitted for construction of the new $2 million arsenic-treatment plant. This is an important step because of a January 2008 federal compliance deadline for the plant, meant to lower levels of arsenic in village water so they meet new government standards.

The council acknowledged that once bids start to be received, slight changes and alterations could be made to the plan. The council decided to move forward with the plan as is with the exception that addendums could be made, making it possible for the council to award contracts for the project by Labor Day.

Also, the council approved bids for new radio remotes for building meters, five new conversion water hydrants, the upsizing of impellers at the village’s No. 2 Lift Station and the irrigation of Mattawan Village Park.

Mattawan seeks new police car

MATTAWAN — The Mattawan Village Police Department has been approved to start the bidding process for a new squad car in an effort to keep modernizing the fleet.

The Village Council approved Police Chief Donald VerHage’s request on June 25 to begin looking at bids for a Chevy Impala police vehicle. The Chevy is a move for the department away from the Ford Crown Victoria model. VerHage said the village would receive a better deal, saving approximately $4,000 with the Chevy, and would receive a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

With the eventual purchase of a new squad car, the police department will begin switching to a more traditional-looking police vehicle with black-and-white paint. Officers say an instantly recognizable police vehicle is safer.
“I think it’s good to have a police car that looks like a police car,“ VerHage said.

In other news:
The Village Council approved the purchase of new software for the police department. The current software, called Titan, will be updated to a system called DDP Police Services, which about 180 other police agencies in Michigan use.
A memorial service for former Mattawan police officer Scot Beyerstedt will be held at 7 p.m. July 26 in the Mattawan Village Park, where a monument to him stands.

July marks the two-year anniversary of the death of Beyerstedt, who died after a high-speed chase. The 21-year-old and his partner, 29-year-old Scott Hutchins, were chasing a suspect July 25, 2005, when their vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a tree near the intersection of 24th Street and Red Arrow Highway near Mattawan. Beyerstedt was driving and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He died as a result of his injuries.
The Village Council discussed the progress of the new arsenic-treatment plant, expected to cost about $2 million. The federal government recently lowered the guidelines for arsenic percentage for water from 50 parts per billion gallons to 10 parts per billion gallons. Mattawan’s arsenic percentage is now 12 parts per billion, forcing the need for the new arsenic plant.

Concerns were raised at the June 25 meeting about whether the arsenic plant would be finished in time for a January 2008 compliance deadline. Some council members pointed out that with the bidding process likely to begin Aug. 1, there wouldn’t be enough time for an estimated 330-day plant-construction completion.

Officials assured the council that a running dialog between the village and the Department of Environmental Quality would allow for some breathing room and that the 330 days was not an exact figure.
Village Attorney Scott Graham updated the council on the occupancy state of 14 new trailer units at the Deal Mobile Home Park. Last year, six units in the park were removed and destroyed. At the same time, 14 new trailers were brought in to the area.

Graham recommended that the trailers remain unoccupied until he and a building inspector review whether the trailers are compliant with 1976 U.S. Housing and Urban Development requirements.

Mattawan schools get high score in magazine’s ratings

MATTAWAN — The Mattawan Consolidated School District is one of only 29 Michigan school districts to receive a Gold Medal designation in the 2007 Education Quotient ratings compiled by Expansion Management magazine.

The magazine’s 16th annual Education Quotient ratings compared 2,819 districts nationwide with student enrollment of at least 3,300 students. Mattawan schools received the top ranking of a Gold Medal, which is awarded to school districts that receive an average score of 83 to 99. Mattawan’s overall average was 85.

The honor was a surprise to Superintendent James Weeldreyer, who learned about the designation when Michigan Association of School Administrators Executive Director William H. Mayes sent a letter of congratulations.

“We didn’t apply for any recognition such as this, so it was a surprise when I got the letter,” Weeldreyer said. “We have always felt that we were very efficient in our operations as determined by other measures. So it seems consistent with the other information that we have.”

Chief Editor Bill King said Expansion Management magazine compiles the yearly Education Quotient ratings to gives its readers, who are primarily CEOs of small to midsize manufacturing companies, a basis for comparing the education level of the work-force members they are likely to encounter in various communities throughout the United States.

Mattawan’s overall score was drawn from scores in three major categories: a Graduate Outcome Index (GO), a Resource Index (RI) and a Community Index (CI). The most weight was given to the GO figure and the least to the CI, which represented only about 5 percent of the school’s overall score.

Mattawan’s highest rating was in the GO category, in which the school district scored a 91. The magazine sites the GO as the most important component of the Education Quotient average. The index attempts to measure the results of the district’s educational efforts in comparison with that of other districts nationwide and consists of the district’s average college-entrance-exam score (ACT or SAT) and its graduation rate.

The CI looks at the educational and income levels of the adult population and child-poverty rates in the school system. The magazine sites the CI’s use primarily as a benchmark for sociological observations. Mattawan received a 79 in this category.

Mattawan received its lowest score, 20, in the RI category, which is an attempt to measure a community’s financial commitment to public education. It includes such things as per-pupil expenditures, the student-teacher ratio and the beginning and average salaries for teachers. Weeldreyer said Mattawan’s low level of funding from the state is the chief reason behind the low score.

Mattawan’s Gold Medal rank is the highest among nearby districts. Expansion Management gave Kalamazoo Public Schools a Green Medal and a score of 39 and Portage Public Schools a Blue Medal and a score of 81.

“I know people in Kalamazoo and in Portage, and we are all working hard,” Weeldreyer said. “All that I can surmise is that we are fortunate to have found a delivery system that seems to be very effective.”