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Community updates: Wednesday, Nov. 24

City of Grand Rapids adding eco-friendly vehicles to operations; Kent County leaders approve 2022 budget; and LaughFest returns for in-person 2022 festival.
Skyline view of Grand Rapids from its west side.

Skyline view of Grand Rapids from its west side. /Experience Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids adding eco-friendly vehicles to operations

The City of Grand Rapids has accepted a state-awarded grant helping it to reach 90 eco-friendly vehicles in its operationsaiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 91.5 metric tons every year.

Announced by the city last week, the $1.4 million grant comes from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and Volkswagen State Mitigation Trust. It enables the city’s Facilities and Fleet Management department to replace 12 of its vehicles with new diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

With the help of the grant, the city will reach its current aim of 90 eco-friendly vehicles in its fleet, it said in a Nov. 17 statement. This includes seven electric, six hybrid/electric, 77 hybrid/gas, and nine compressed natural gas vehicles.

The new, more efficient diesel vehicles will reduce fuel consumption and emissions,” said Steve Prins, the city’s acting Director of Facilities and Fleet Management. “The newer diesel emission equipped dump/plow trucks will reduce diesel particulates and nitrogen oxide emissions released into the atmosphere by up to 98 percent over the older diesel vehicles.”

Based on the grant requirements, all vehicles being replaced must be decommissioned and destroyed to a point where each can never be put back into operations again. All these older vehicles were scheduled to be replaced as a part of the city’s current asset management plan, the city also noted.

These [vehicles], along with the new CNG refuse trucks and hybrid sweeper, will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint, improve air quality, and mitigate climate change,” Prins continued.We believe that this grant will help us achieve our sustainability goals and improve the wellbeing of our residents.”

More details about the City of Grand Rapids’ sustainability efforts are outlined in a Sept. 2021 resolution passed by city commissioners.


Kent County leaders approve 2022 budget

The Kent County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed the county’s 2022 fiscal year budget last week, totaling $527 million.

Adoption of the annual budget “follows an extensive and transparent process,” according to a Nov. 18 statement from the county. It noted that the new budget includes $454.8 million for operating expenditures, of which $16.7 million is for capital improvements.

“This budget reflects the stability and perseverance of our community,” said Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter. “Due to our strong fiscal policies, we are able to fund critical services like public safety, parks, and social services while continuing to meet the challenges of this pandemic.”

Kent County’s budget is driven by its 2019-2023 strategic plan, which has been adopted by the commission to ensure county investments support the community’s greatest short- and long-term needs.

The county’s overall operating expenditures for FY22 are:

  • Community and economic development | $12.5 million
  • General government and debt | $93 million
  • Judicial | $52.3 million
  • Recreation and culture | $24.9 million
  • Social services | $113.7 million
  • Public safety | $99.8 million
  • Public works | $58.6 million

The FY22 budget does not include funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The Board of Commissioners will adopt a separate spending plan for this funding, according to the county.


LaughFest returns for in-person 2022 festival

Gilda’s LaughFest is back to its in-person form in 2022, it announced Tuesday, after a mostly virtual festival this year and cancellation the year before.

Set for March 16-20, next year’s festival will feature nearly 50 comedy events, social media contests, and other activities for all ages. As in previous years, all proceeds will benefit the cancer, grief, and support programs offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.

“After being virtual in 2021, we are excited to return live and in person,” LaughFest’s Events and Festival Manager, Zack Berends, said. “From the festival’s beginning, our goal has been to bring laughter to West Michigan during the gray days of March and raise visibility and funds for Gilda’s Club’s mission.”

“Our team has been working behind the scenes since the close of LaughFest 2021 to bring a safe festival back in 2022 that continues to inspire community togetherness and laughter for the health of it,” he added.

Next year marks LaughFest’s 12th year, with headlining comedians to be announced in early 2022. Updates will be made available through its website.


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