Ottawa County 58th District Court Gives Hope

The Ottawa County 58th District Court staff donated 81 backpacks filled with necessities (socks, pajamas, toothbrushes…) and other important items (toys, coloring books, crayons, puzzles…) to Hope Pkgs. Hope Pkgs is a local nonprofit that provides “first night bags” for children entering foster care. Many kids enter a foster family’s home with nothing but the clothing on their backs. The filled backpacks provide some comfort and hope for children of all ages during the transition. Let’s applaud these employees for their generosity and demonstration of The Ottawa Way.

Pictured is Lisa from Hope Pkgs and the District Court All RISE! Staff Enrichment Team who orchestrated and oversaw the project. (Not pictured is team member Sue O’Connor)

Does Your Web Page Need Attention?

Do you know how many “pages” make up miOttawa.org or how many pdf files we house on our website? It’s a rough estimate, but we have over 1,800 pages plus over 8,700 pdf files. The upside: we have a lot of information on our website. The downside: we have a lot of information on our website.

In our most recent citizen survey (2016), 78% of residents who had visited miOttawa.org gave it a positive rating. This is a passing grade, but it leaves nearly one-quarter of our website visitors unsatisfied with our electronic information or services. How can we work together to eliminate this friction and improve our website? Here are some tips that we can all employ:

Update It
When a customer visits our website today and sees a sentence such as, “The training will continue through 2015,” our credibility is instantly diminished. Do you know the process for updating your department’s web page content? Typically, each department designates one person to send content updates to our contractor, Webtecs. Do you know who manages content for your department? If you do not, discuss it at your next staff meeting. Sometimes the person who was designated to watch the content moves on and the task is never reassigned. Other times, the day to day operations take priority over updating the website. Now is a chance to regroup and switch the assignments if needed.

Pdf vs. Page Text
Every time a user has to “click” the chances of that user retrieving the information you intend to communicate goes down. Unless you are providing a form to complete, offer the information in both text on the web page and a pdf of the flyer that you masterfully created.

Click vs. Scroll
The popularity of mobile devices and tablets has converted many of our customers into creatures who scroll. Half of our website visitors access miOttawa.org from their mobile devices. (Apple devices edged Android devices on miOttawa.org by 5.72% in December, if you are keeping score.) In the past, web design placed a high importance on the information “above the fold” or on the screen you see when you land on a web page. While this is still important, we have embraced scrolling. Scroll with it. Just be sure to keep luring customers down the page with good design.

Product Information First
While your 2016 annual report, organization’s history or the note from the director is nice, consider why your website visitors come to miOttawa.org. (NOTE: Your director is most certainly AMAZING!) Are your visitors online for services, to enroll in training, to learn about an event, to get contact information, to find the answer to a question or to do something else?  If your customer becomes frustrated trying to find the course registration information they are looking for, they could simply leave miOttawa.org. Take a moment to find someone with no or limited information about your department or program and ask them, “Does this make sense?” If you are the content manager, feel free to ask Webtecs for advice when sending your content to them. They can likely suggest empathetic site architecture to improve the user experience. Learn more about User Experience at https://www.usability.gov/

Proofread. Then proofread again.
You have read your copy a dozen times. If possible, request a trusted colleague to look it over. Once it is published online, take one more look. Simply the change in font or formatting can uncover a covert typo, lurking among the letters waiting to attack your professionalism and humiliate you.

Avoid Acronyms and Jargon
While it may be impossible to completely remove jargon, make an effort to mix common, lay terms or past terminology in your content. Remember that the website is a primary portal for the public, not your professional peers.

Consider Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Passive sentences are not always the best way to phrase your thoughts. Passive voice is often awkward, vague, wordy and more difficult to understand. Make your writing clear and concise. Replace passive sentences with active sentences when possible. Here is a great resource from Purdue University.

This is just a sample of ideas we can use to improve miOttawa.org. What are some other things you see on websites that you feel should be included or avoided?  Do you have a favorite government website? Why? Share in the comments.

‘Hateful Things’ exhibition comes to Loutit District Library

Exhibition sheds light on racism and promotes racial understanding and healing 

Loutit District Library (LDL) will host a traveling exhibition on race in America called ‘Hateful Things’ from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University.

The exhibition will run from Feb. 5-18 on LDL’s Upper-Level Lobby.

‘Hateful Things’ is a thirty-nine piece collection, comprised of material culture items that range from the late 19th century to present day. The exhibition embodies the effects of the Jim Crow legacy while examining the history of the racial stereotyping of African Americans.

The exhibition also includes professionally framed images showing the Civil Rights movement and the fight for equal rights, while also displaying the history of brutal and cruel acts against African-Americans. Present-day images of stereotyping will also be on display.

Each item in the exhibit carries signage helping the public to better understand its significance.

For more information about this exhibit, visit http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow.

The library hours are:

Monday – Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For more information, visit http://www.loutitlibrary.org or call 616-842-5560 ext. 222.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Greetings from Ottawa County’s Cultural Intelligence Committee
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  This is federal holiday which marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and was established back in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan.

Then, as now, many felt an uncertainty in the direction of our country as the country was ripe with the fear of racism and inequality.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave a speech that’s widely referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech.  Every once in a while, an individual comes along whose words lift us, inspire us to be a better, to view the world not as it is, but what it can be.  That speech holds a special meaning, not just singularly as individuals, but collectively as a nation.

The links below will direct you to that speech.  The entire speech is about 17 minutes long. The portion heard most often is bout 6 ½ minutes long.  Hit the link below.  We hope you take the time to listen and be inspired.

Enjoy Pigeon Creek Over the Holidays

The weather forecast looks great for skiing for weeks to come! Anticipating optimal ski conditions this holiday season, these are our Pigeon Creek Lodge holiday hours:

  • December 24: 9am – 4pm (last ski rental at 2:30 pm)
  • December 25: CLOSED
  • December 26 – December 30: 9am – 10pm (last ski rental at 8:30 pm)
  • December 31: 9am – 8pm (last ski rental at 6:30 pm)
  • January 1: 9am – 8pm (last ski rental at 6:30 pm)
  • January 2: 12pm – 8pm (last ski rental at 6:30 pm)
  • Snowshoe rentals are also available during these times with sizes for ages 4 through 104!

The lodge is only open during good ski conditions. If you aren’t sure if the lodge is open, call our hotline: (616) 738-9531.

Winter Park hours during good ski conditions: 7 am-10 pm

Ski Classes

Ski classes begin this January! Classes for beginners, intermediates, and skate skiers are available. Check the schedule to find a class that’s perfect for you.

Customer Service | Advice & Action

Living the Golden Rule

What is the true meaning of excellent customer service? Words of advice from some of Ottawa County’s Customer Service Award nominees:

  • “Listen to what people are saying to you.”
  • “Always, treat people like they are humans, and handle each interaction with compassion and respect.”
  • “Always be willing to think outside the box for solutions. There is always an answer.”
  • “Be empathetic. Think to yourself, ‘what if I were in their shoes?’ Regard the feelings of others as more important than your own.”

Outstanding Customer Service in Action

Each quarter the Customer Service Team receives numerous nominations for the Customer Service Award. The stories are redacted and submitted to each team member to read. The Customer Service Team members then vote on the ones they found most inspiring. This is an extremely challenging task because the stories are heartfelt, inspiring and depict the true spirit of the Ottawa Way. Many stories are too good to not share.

Sandra Shafer

“Sandy provides an endless selection of food available to the staff at the Grand Haven courthouse. She spends a lot of her spare time preparing meals for those of us who work here and I am sure many of us would starve without her. It is so nice to be able to pick up a quick snack or meal to keep me going all day, as I usually don’t have time to think about that when I am rushing out of my house in the morning. I have a hard enough time making sure my kids get fed, and Sandy helps feed the entire courthouse! So grateful for what she does for her coworkers.”

Karla Snodgrass

“Going above and beyond for a customer who was recording a warranty deed. When Karla compared the legal description on the deed with the Ottawa County Property Search description, she noticed that there was a 7-foot exception included in the warranty deed which was not in the county’s description. Because this property is a part of a plat, she reviewed 10 resolutions that were made for the plat. She also reviewed the amendment to the master deed, the master deed and the adjoining properties – none of which included the 7-foot exception in their descriptions. Karla also contacted the Assessor for Holland City to see if he could figure out why the exception was not included and he was unable to figure it out. Not only did she do all of this work, she also made sure to keep in contact with Ben (who was recording the deed) to let him know that she was still working on trying to figure out the difference in the descriptions. After she completed all of the research, Karla and her supervisor decided to let the deed be recorded as is. Because Karla did all of this extra work, it is evident that she cares about the customers who visit the Treasurer’s Office and also about doing the best job that she can. Therefore, I would like to nominate Karla Snodgrass for an Outstanding Customer Service Award.”

Adam Zantello

“Every time Adam Z. has entered my establishment he not only takes a professional but a personal interest in making sure all staff is informed of the nature of his visit as well as a complete and proper inspection. He does not cut corners and always shows a positive attitude during his routine. Adam is very willing to answer all questions from any team members before, during, and after the inspection. I look forward to his visits knowing I will always learn something new. One thing I can add is that he is the only routine inspector that has ever made the effort to contact us with any answers he did not have at the time of inspection, usually within 24 hours.”

Deputy Josh Barton

“My son was involved in a bad car accident on his way home from work. When I arrived on the scene I was I was very concerned about the well-being of everybody, especially my son. Deputy Barton took the time to calm me down and explain that everybody was ok and explain what had happened to the best of his knowledge. Deputy Barton’s demeanor during a stressful time was exemplary. I  would like to thank Deputy Barton for his professionalism during this incident.”

Upcoming Diversity & Multicultural Events

Thurs, Dec 29, 6:30 pm: Annual Kwanzaa Celebration 
The greater Holland community is invited to celebration Kwanzaa, jointly hosted by Maple Avenue Ministries, Pillar Church, Fellowship Reformed Church, Zion Dominion International Ministries, Calvary Reformed Church, and Engedi. Contributions will be accepted for the annual Black Graduate scholarships for graduating seniors. At Maple Avenue Ministries, 427 Maple Ave, Holland.

Fri, Dec 30, 3 pm to 6 pm: Unconferenced Community Conversation: Dialogue and Break-out Sessions 
Follow-up
 to Community Conversation held in the fall of 2016 to discuss local issues and solutions. Panelists will be ACLU field director Rodd Mont; attorney Timothy Vanderberg; and community activist Germaine Pellebon-Smith; facilitated by Kim Harris of AAADO. Everyone is welcome. At Herrick District Library auditorium, 300 South River, Holland.

Community Opportunity: Reciprocal Language Partnership
The Reciprocal Language Partnership (RLP) seeks to build unity and cross-cultural understanding through the teaching and learning of languages. RLP classes pair native English speakers who want to learn Spanish with native Spanish speakers who want to learn English. Class fee is on a sliding scale based on household income. Winter 2017 classes will run Tuesdays from 6 pm to 8:15 pm, Jan 17 to Apr 18, with instruction for basic beginners and one for higher-level beginners. Classes and informational meetings (see below) are held at Eagle’s Wings Church/Iglesia Alas de Aguila, 635 Riley St, Holland. Questions? Call Rachel Patmos at (616) 738-3850. Prospective students must attend one of the following meetings before enrolling in RLP:
Tues, Jan 3, 6 to 7 pm: native English speakers and 7 to 8 pm: native Spanish speakers OR Tues, Jan 10, 6 to 7 pm: native English speakers and 7 to 8 pm: native Spanish speakers

Sat, Feb 4, 2017, 5 pm: Annual Heart 2 Heart Community Celebration
A Potluck and Cultural Sharing Party, hosted by the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony (ACEH). Music, performances, silent auction, family activities, fabulous food, fun, fellowship. Everyone is welcome! At First United Methodist Church, 57 West 10th St, Holland.

Information From the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony: “Diversity, Unity, and Justice Are at the Heart of ACEH”

Getting to Know the Prosecutor’s Office

What is the role of the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office? As the elected Prosecutor, Ronald Frantz serves as the chief administrator of criminal justice for Ottawa County. More specifically, his office makes criminal charging decisions based on investigative reports provided by law enforcement agencies. In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office assists with investigations by providing legal advice to law enforcement agencies and aids with the drafting and review of search warrants. The Office also handles court proceedings in Adult, Juvenile, and Abuse/Neglect Courts and is assigned to handle Mental Commitment Proceedings in Probate Court as well. Appeals are researched and argued by the attorney staff members of the Prosecutor’s Office before the State and Federal Appellate Courts. In addition to these key responsibilities, the Prosecutor’s Office team also facilitates training for law enforcement and the community and serves on various committees such as West Michigan Enforcement Team, Lakeshore Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Child Death Review Team. Some of the attorneys on staff are also assigned to the Mental Health and Sobriety Courts.

The Prosecutor’s Office additionally provides victim advocacy and domestic assault intervention through a team of three Victim Advocates and one Violence Intervention Officer (VIO). In addition to the Victim Advocates and VIO, the thirteen attorneys of the office (including the Prosecutor) are supported by one Legal Clerk, eight Legal Assistants, and an Office Administrator. There are two offices for the Prosecutor:  one in the Grand Haven Courthouse and the other in the Holland Courthouse. A satellite office for the Abuse/Neglect Prosecutor is located at the Fillmore Complex.

Congratulations Dave Miller!

New Solid Waste Team Supervisor

Dave started with Ottawa County in February of 2012 as a sanitarian. His duties were split between the solid waste team and the on-site field team. The solid waste team ensures proper disposal of household hazardous waste, which can pollute the environment and pose a threat to people’s health (www.miOttawa.org/eco). The on-site field team ensures homeowner’s wastewater dispersal and water supply systems are functioning properly to protect public health (www.miOttawa.org/landevaluation).

Shortly thereafter, Dave moved into a full-time position with the on-site team; providing primarily well and septic inspection services. In July of 2015, he took over as the non-community water supply coordinator; where he continued in that role until recently becoming the solid waste team supervisor.

Since starting with Ottawa County, Dave has been involved in the Michigan Environmental Health Association (MEHA) and National Environmental Health Association. Participating in MEHA, Dave served as the MEHA Web and Tech Committee chairperson in 2012 through 2014. At the 2014 MEHA Annual Education Conference, he was the recipient of the David H McMullen – Young Professional of the Year Award. He was also the featured presenter, providing education on breweries and environmental health.

“As the solid waste team supervisor, I look forward to building on our past success to adapt to a quickly evolving environment,” said Dave Miller.