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Healthy Kent taps into community to identify top health issues

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM)—A research project to identify the most important health needs in Kent County is in its final stages.

Healthy Kent is heading up the 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Improvement Planning project. In fall, the group identified the top health concerns in Kent County.

Now Healthy Kent is encouraging community members to take an online survey to further define health concerns. The survey will be open until Jan. 12 and should only take a few minutes to complete. You can find that survey here.

My Town: Looking for a job? Head to Grand Rapids, survey says

My Town: Looking for a job?  Head to Grand Rapids, survey says

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Grand Rapids is where the jobs will be in 2015, according to survey results published by Forbes.

Every quarter, Manpower surveys employers in each market to determine who will be hiring and who will be firing. The biggest jump in employment is expected to happen in the Cape Coral, Florida area, where 32 percent of surveyed companies said they planned to hire new staff in the first quarter of 2015.  McAllen, Texas ranked second for jobs, with an estimated 29 percent of companies hiring; Grand Rapids tied with Deltona, Florida for third place, with approximately 26 percent of businesses planning to add positions. For the complete rankings, visit Forbes’ website.

Kent ISD superintendent announces retirement

Kent ISD superintendent announces retirement

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)—After more than three decades helping to educate hundreds of thousands of children, the superintendent of Kent Intermediate School District is leaving his post.

Tuesday, Kevin Konarska announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year. Konarska has worked for Kent ISD for nine years, helping the agency navigate through the Great Recession and deep funding cuts by the state, all while opening new education programs and a laboratory school.

"It will be very hard to see Kevin leave," Board President Claudia Bajema said in a news release to WZZM 13. "He has made such a difference in the schools we serve and in the opportunities available to the more than 100,000 students throughout our service region."

Pimp convicted of murdering John Dahlinger

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - After deliberating most of the day, a Kent County jury this afternoon returned guilty verdicts against Danyell Thomas for the October, 2013 robbery and murder of businessman John Dahlinger at the victim's Northeast Side condominium.

Jurors convicted Thomas on four counts, including felony murder. Thomas shook his head as the verdicts were read. He was returned to the Kent County Jail without bond pending his sentencing on Jan.13. Felony murder carries a mandatory term of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Members of the Thomas family, seated in the back row of the 10th floor courtroom, sobbed loudly as verdicts were read. The Dahlinger family sobbed quietly and embraced.

Grenades found in G.R. veterans home donations

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Police say five live practice grenades were left among donations to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The Associated Press reports that staff called police on Tuesday after finding the practice grenades at the home's donation center. No one was injured.

Police say it was determined that the practice grenades likely were left by mistake. They were removed by the police bomb squad.

My Town: Whooping cough on the rise in West Michigan

My Town: Whooping cough on the rise in West Michigan

KENT COUNTY, Mich.—The Kent County Health Department is seeing a slight uptick in whooping cough cases.

Health Department spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante says from Jan. 1 to Dec. 5, 13 cases of whooping cough were reported in Kent County.  During that same time last year, only nine cases of whooping cough were reported in the county.  Whooping cough last spiked in 2010, with 17 cases locally. In a month-by-month breakdown of the year, January had the most reported cases (5), followed by August (3) and September (2).

The Allegan County Health Department is also dealing with a higher number of whooping cough cases; 21 people reported coming down with whooping cough between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1.  That's more than double the number of cases reported during the same time last year, according to the health department's Dr. Richard Tooker.

Area man first in state to buy aluminum-bodied F-150

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A West Michigan man is one of just four people nationwide to own the new aluminum-bodied Ford F-150. He's also the only person in Michigan to buy the vehicle so far.

Jay VanderWoude bought the truck from Tony Betten & Sons Ford on Plainfield Avenue.

The 2015 F-150 is the first mass-produced truck with a military-grade aluminum alloy body.

VanderWoude says his truck will be able to handle Michigan's harsh winters.

"I think some people were kind of worried about the lightness and such," he said. "I think it was 700-750 pounds lighter and they're worried about how the four-wheel drive will work, and will it lose traction? I don't think that will be the case. It works fine. I've already had it in a little bit of snow already."

VanderWoude is the owner of Grand Rapids based East Beltline Towing.