Councilman wowed by cops after ride-along: “Oh my God. That guy’s great.”

By Ralph Echtinaw

City Councilman Bill Leonard took a ride with St. Louis Police Officer Ryan Bahlke on Friday, Nov. 12, and boy was he impressed.

“I’m sure the public doesn’t realize and understand how safe St. Louis is,” he said at the city council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16. “I was impressed. I rode with Ryan Bahlke. Great young officer (32) with tremendous self awareness. A good fellow.” Bahlke works the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.

Leonard was equally taken with Officer Greg Kolhoff, a 51-year-old veteran officer who was hired two months ago and works from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. “He’s the real deal. Oh my God. That guy’s great.”

Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. chimed in at that point: “He’s doing wonderful so far.”

Back to Leonard: “I can see why. I had an opportunity to spend some time with him. The guy is just awesome. I don’t know how you landed that guy. Good job, chief.”

Ramereiz explained that Kolhoff started his law enforcement career as a reserve officer with the SLPD in the mid 1990s after serving in the Marine Corps. After completing the police academy, he worked part time for the SLPD and the Gratiot County Sheriff’s Office in the late 1990s. For the last ten years he worked full-time with the Clare Police Department. But he wanted to work closer to home; hence the new job in St. Louis. In fact, Kolhoff is the only officer in the SLPD who lives in St. Louis.

Among Kolhoff’s credentials are use of force instructor, defensive tactics training, taser instructor, active shooter/active threat response training, leadership training, supervisor training, homicide and crime scene management, detective school, firefighter certified and medical first responder.

Kolhoff “portrays a powerful presence and is a serious asset to the afternoon/night cover shift,” Leonard said via email. “If you wanted or needed backup, he is your man.”

Leonard stayed with Bahlke until 4 a.m. when “gravity was taking over my eyelids. The conversions for the evening mostly centered on me, as Officer Bahlke pretty much did a background interview. He was interested in the differences between policing in St. Louis as opposed to Mt. Pleasant and urban policing in Grand Rapids. He did numerous traffic stops and wrote some traffic violations. It is impressive how the onboard printer does the ticket to hand to the violator and automatically sends it to the courthouse. This is a huge money saver for the city not having to hand-deliver tickets to Ithaca. Officer Bahlke represents all that is good in the future of America. He and Officer Kolhoff team to keep our city safe at night.”

Leonard’s son Anthony was an officer with the Mt. Pleasant Police for six years and for the last 12 years with the Grand Rapids Police.

Officer Kolhoff, also a lieutenant with the St. Louis Area Fire Department, was the first hire to fill two vacancies in the SLPD. The second hire is on the horizon, Ramereiz said Nov. 16, only needing a final interview before it’s official. Once that deed is done the department will have six full-time officers in addition to a crossing guard, building inspector, code enforcement officer, clerk, sergeant and Ramereiz.

Finding and hiring new officers is “a struggle” these days, Ramereiz said, noting that the sheriff’s office is down two officers. Alma PD has one vacancy and is putting somebody through the police academy to fill it. State police have personnel troubles, too. “The state police is such a large monster of an entity (that) there’s a lot of vacancies that have to be filled,” Ramereiz said.

Leonard was also impressed with the level of cooperation between police in Alma and St. Louis. Ramereiz said the SLPD assists Alma three or four times a week on average (and vice versa).

“It’s amazing how they work together,” Leonard said.

Salt storage barn damaged

Public Services Director Keith Risdon reports that the back wall of the DPW’s salt storage barn was displaced on account of the salt stored against it. Half of the salt was moved to concrete pads at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (and covered). An insurance adjuster has already visited. Building Inspector Paul Erskine was supposed to have a look at the damage this week.

Velsicol update

City Manager Kurt Giles said he spoke with EPA project director Tom Alcamo and learned that his crew will stop heating the current contamination site in early December, as contamination there has been all but eradicated. Vapor and water treatment will run for three to four weeks afterwards. Alcamo wants to meet with Risdon and Giles after Thanksgiving to discuss the Velsicol burn pit and Orchard Hills water project. The burn pit is the last of the majorly contaminated areas that the EPA plans to clean. It’s located across the river from the Velsicol site (near the corner of Prospect and Hebron). The Orchard Hills water project involves providing city water to property owners in the subdivision who are currently on well water that could be contaminated.

Trail expansion discussed

Mayor James Kelly told councilmen that he talked to Alma Mayor Greg Mapes about using federal infrastructure funds to expand local bike trails. “I think it would be an easy sell,” he said. “But we need to get a committee established and do some ground work. Greg said he would be interested and probably a couple more of his people. That would be an excellent benefit for all the communities.”

Specifically, Kelly would like to see a new trail from Lions Park on Michigan Avenue that would follow Cheesman Road then follow the Rivers West Bank into Alma, then connect to a trail that runs west to Riverdale. “I also suggested that we could connect the US-27 trail, so we could connect Alma, Ithaca and Saint Louis to a trail system that runs west for many miles,” Kelly said via email. “This addition would help walkers and bikers by eliminating the need to transport your bicycle or yourself for several miles to get on a trail. We just didn’t have any money to do it. Now, with the new federal infrastructure bill, there is. They have earmarked quite a bit of money specifically for walking/biking trails.”

Kelly retiring

Kelly has two more meetings as mayor of St. Louis (Dec. 7 and 21)before beginning his retirement. The city has scheduled an open house for Kelly 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, at city hall. Come on down if you want to congratulate Kelly and wish him well in retirement.

Spending money

Councilmen approved the following expenditures at the Nov. 16 meeting:

  • $12,840 to Munetrix (a financial data analytic company) to renew the city’s access to this software for three years.
  • $11,710 and $28,000 to Fishbeck of Grand Rapids for professional services relating to residential well groundwater monitoring to be reimbursed by EPA. Oberlitner Well Drilling is a subcontractor. Ten homeowners near the city’s wells in Arcada Township have agreed to have their water tested.
  • $13,248 to Hach of Loveland, Colorado for monitoring equipment (SC4500 Controller) to be used at wastewater treatment plant.
  • $13,675 for a digester gas mixer from T.H. Eifert Mechanical of Lansing for the wastewater treatment plant.
  • $41,510 to Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, Inc. for additional design work for water main replacement on M46 from Clinton to Pine.

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