Looking back on 2015

It's no doubt there has been an abundance of news this year, all of which affected county residents in one way or another. As the year comes to a close, we at the Herald Review look back on the past 12 months and review many of the events which shaped the year. In no particular order, these are what we felt were the top stories of 2015.

Avian influenza threat cancels fair poultry shows, exhibits

As a precaution against avian influenza, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced in June the cancellation of all poultry and waterfoul exhibits and shows at 2015 fairs. 4-H programs were approved to use two alternatives to show their animals, including using plush versions of their animal during showmanship competitions. 4-H'ers using the models had both positive and negative opinions on the change, but ultimately adjusted well. Birds were still available to purchase at fair auctions, and buyers could take home their processed bird that night.

Police search to find missing Evart man

After finding his vehicle in the Muskegon River on Nov. 29, Michigan State Police troopers began a search for 60-year-old Donald Garry Tiegen of Evart. Members of the MSP Dive Team have searched the river and MSP aviation and canine teams have searched the area, though they have been unable to find signs of Tiegen, who has been in poor health and may be disoriented or confused. The search to find him continues.

Osceola Habitat merges with Wexford Habitat

July 1 marked the date when Osceola County Habitat for Humanity merged with Wexford County Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity still has a presence in Osceola County and has a committee which is responsible for all of the fundraising for obtaining property to build houses or for the rehabilitation of homes. According to officials, the merger was a way to cut costs and time of completion.Currently, two homes donated by Wells Fargo Bank — in the Lake Miramichi subdivision and a Rose Lake subdivision — are in the works for rehabilitation. Further projects in Osceola County will dependent on available funds.

Howard Hyde retires after 34 years in education

Following years in the field of education and 27 of those years spent within Evart Public Schools, superintendent Howard Hyde ended his career this month. He began as a teacher in the Hartford School District, then came to EPS in 1988 as an assistant principal and athletic director. In 1998, he was hired as the district’s superintendent. Hyde has been an integral part of the district, campaigning for district millages and and supporting the school's academic and extra curricular activities. His future plans include a move to Minneapolis where he will spend more time with family and travel.

Pine River Area Schools celebrates 50th anniversary

April marked the 50th anniversary for Pine River Area Schools, which became an official district following consolidation between the Luther, LeRoy and Tustin community school districts. In the fall of 1965, PRAS operated K-6 in Luther, a K-6 and 7-8 in LeRoy, and a K-6 and 9-12 in Tustin. The existing high school opened with students after Thanksgiving break on Dec. 2, 1968. Though it took time for those communities to come together and become a Pine River community, the district eventually became cohesive and remains strong today. To recognize the district’s anniversary, a celebration event welcomed staff and support members, board members, teachers and administrators from the fall of 1965 to the spring of 1979. The occasion included an ice cream social and the chance for individuals and former coworkers to reunite.

Marion Fair Board members investigated for embezzlement

A possible embezzlement investigation by the Osceola County Sheriff's Department began in September of a member or members of the Marion Fair Board. That month it was reported 4-H'ers still had not received payment from the livestock auction, but finally were paid in October once the board was able to unfreeze its assets. The investigation is still ongoing, and since it began the Marion Fair Board has been restructured.

Mallo found not guilty, one case still pending

Following a mistrial at the end of 2014, former Reed City resident Francis Brent Mallo was found not guilty of three counts of criminal sexual conduct in a June 2015 retrial. Mallo had been accused of sexually assaulting a girl in the early 1990s who babysat for Mallo's children. In a separate case, Mallo faced two counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting a young girl staying with the Mallos between 2009 and 2010. Mallo was found not guilty on one of those counts in September 2015, with a mistrial declared on the other count. A new trial is pending on the remaining count.

Spectrum merger complete after three-year process

The summer of 2015 concluded the three-year merger process between Spectrum Health, the hospitals of Reed City and Big Rapids and the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center. The completed merger meant an easier, faster, more convenient and more efficient patient experience at the hospital and clinics throughout the Spectrum Health system. Coinciding with the merger, Spectrum also introduced MyHealth, the free Spectrum Health patient portal which allows access to tests and hospitalization records from all Spectrum Health facilities on both mobile phone and computer devices.

Hersey church hits 145-year milestone

Members of the Hersey Congregational Church, one of the oldest churches in Osceola County, celebrated in 2015 as they reached their 145th anniversary. The church itself was formally organized in 1870, hosting services in the local schoolhouse for three years. In 1874, the current church building was constructed for $3,000. A basement and furnace was added in 1909, while electricity came a year later. The church’s spire, said to be the tallest north of Grand Rapids, was destroyed on June 24,1924, by lightning, but was replaced with the steeple seen today. In 2000, it became an independent, non-denominational church. The building still contains the original pews, stained-glass windows and pulpit. Small renovations have been taking place in recent years to keep the building structurally sound.

Evart revitalizes downtown with state grant

After a year of waiting, the city of Evart was able to improve the look of its downtown area in 2015 with help from a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Downtown Infrastructure Grant. The project was supposed to occur in 2014, but a lack of affordable bids caused a setback, leaving the city to wait, ask the state for additional time to complete construction, re-do the bidding process and ask for additional funds. The project included new signage, a gazebo, additional greenery and trees, sidewalks with American Disability Act tactile strips, bumpouts and a charging station for electric vehicles. A rain garden, sitting areas and unisex bathrooms also were constructed in a pocket park. City officials hope the new amenities will help draw potential businesses to the downtown district, while inspiring current business owners to further beautify their own.