Checking in with Ottawa County

GVL/Luke Holmes
The Student Senate met in the Alumni House on Dec. 3.

GVL/Luke Holmes The Student Senate met in the Alumni House on Dec. 3.

Jess Hodge

Taxes are low, the number of jobs being created is rising, agriculture production is up and new sidewalks are being built in Ottawa County.

Greg DeJong joined the student senate for their meeting in the Grand Valley State University Alumni House on Thursday. DeJong, an Ottawa County commissioner, came to speak to the senators about recent projects in the county.

Most relevant to GVSU community members, sidewalks will be installed on 48th Avenue as of April 1, 2016.

“We’re working hard at a county level to make sure you guys are staying safe out here,” DeJong said. “48th Avenue (and) Lake Michigan Drive all the way to Pierce Street will be a boulevard, and there will be sidewalks on both sides of that.”

DeJong also hinted at a new housing project on Pierce Street and 52nd Avenue that will require sidewalks to be built alongside the development.

Vice President for External Relations Andy Oeffner noted that he, along with a few other senators, has attended Allendale Township board meetings about new sidewalks.

“We’ve made it clear that we want these sidewalks,” he said.

Oeffner also urged other senators to go to the meetings and make their presence and objective known.

Sidewalks are not the only new things happening here. Ottawa County is beginning to create more jobs throughout its county limits.

“Ottawa County is leading the state with creating jobs,” DeJong said. “There are good jobs here, and we’re starting to do a better job of retaining our educated people.”

The recession hit this particular county hard, but agriculture pulled out and has since been helping Ottawa County make big strides is creating those new jobs.

“Ottawa County is second in the state of Michigan in agriculture production and we are creating jobs in the agriculture business,” he explained. “We’re proud of the fact that we’re creating jobs and retaining jobs in our agriculture business.”

DeJong said taxes are another reason to love Ottawa County. With the third-lowest taxes in Michigan, Ottawa County hasn’t seen a county tax rate increase in eight years. However, on the upcoming ballot, voters will get to decide on millage for two things: mental health and parks. Millage is a rate of tax expressed in mills. A mill is 1/1,000 of a dollar.

DeJong notes that mental health is a problem that needs to be addressed, and the cuts do affect people.

“Ottawa County has lost almost $4 million to our mental health organizations,” he explained. “It’s only because of state budget cuts (so) we need to raise about $3.5 million dollars.”

The other millage rate on the ballot would be a renewal one for the park systems.

“We’re very proud of that fact that we have some of the best park systems here in the state of Michigan,” DeJong said. “Sixty-three percent of Ottawa County residents said they (would) support a renewal millage for our parks.”

Ottawa County strives to create great service from the 1,100 employees and 11 commissioners who work for them.

“Service is a huge thing for us at Ottawa County,” DeJong concludes. “We strive to do the very best we can.”