The South Haven Tribune is a total market coverage newspaper in southwestern Michigan, delivered weekly to 13,500 homes and businesses in northwestern Van Buren County and southwestern Allegan County. The Tribune is owned by Paxton Media Group and is affiliated with The Herald-Palladium.
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Bond set at $1 million for Bangor man
A Bangor man remains in jail after his bond was set at $1 million at an arraignment Friday for attempting to grab a sheriff deputy's handgun.
Toby Farley, 34, faces one count of attempting to disarm a police officer, two counts of resisting arrest and fourth-offense for being a habitual offender. He is scheduled for a preliminary exam at 1 p.m., May 20 in Seventh District Court in South Haven.
Farley was arrested at 6:20 p.m., Thursday, May 9, in the 28000 block of County Road 687. Van Buren County deputies, who had an outstanding warrant for parole absconding, visited the home Farley was at after receiving a complaint of a possible child neglect complaint.
When Bangor Police, Child Protective Services and sheriff's deputies arrived to the home, Farley ran from the house into a wooded area.
After he was apprehended, deputies said Farley struggled when they attempted to handcuff him. As he was being escorted to a police vehicle Farley tried to grab a deputy's handgun from its holster. Farley received several facial injuries while resisting police officers. One o the officers incurred minor hand injuries.
Ironically, in 2006 Farley was convicted of disarming a state trooper who shot Farley as he was attempting to do so. Farley was paroled from prison several months ago.
Bangor man arrested after trying to grab deputy's gun
A Bangor man has been arrested after attempting to grab a sheriff deputy's handgun.
Toby Farley, 34, faces criminal for failure to report to his parole officer, resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a police officer.
Farley was arrested at 6:20 p.m., Thursday, in the 28000 block of County Road 687. Deputies, who had an outstanding warrant for parole absconding, visited the home Farley was at after receiving a complaint of a possible child neglect complaint.
When Bangor Police, Child Protective Services and sheriff's deputies arrived to the home, Farley ran from the house into a wooded area.
After he was apprehended, deputies said Farley struggled when they attempted to handcuff him. As he was being escorted to a police vehicle Farley tried to grab a deputy's handgun from its holster. Farley received several facial injuries while resisting police officers. One o the officers incurred minor hand injuries.
Ironically, in 2006 Farley was convicted of disarming a state trooper who shot Farley as he was attempting to do so. Farley was paroled from prison several months ago.
Bangor voters choose
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
BANGOR - Bangor is getting a new mayor Monday.
City voters chose challenger Nick Householder, in the May 7 election, over incumbent Mayor Jennifer Carpio-Zeller. Householder won with 185 votes, while Carpio-Zeller fell short with 85 votes.
Carpio-Zeller has been mayor for two years. Householder, 41, a political newcomer, was elected to a three-year term and will be sworn in on Monday.
After the results were announced, Householder said he believes he was elected because voters felt it was time for a leadership change.
His priority is to stop what he called a steep economic decline for city government. He'll also push for renovation of the former police station that was badly damaged by a 2010 fire instead of pursuing costlier options, he said.
Councilwomen Lynne Farmer and Patti Waite fought back challengers Tuesday, and were reelected to new three-year terms. They took in 170 and 144 votes, respectively.
Candidates Jim Tanner and Robert Freislinger received 107 and 73 votes, respectively.
Whether or not to renovate the former police station may have been a big issue for voters. Householder and Farmer favor renovation over other options.
"I think that the propaganda that was sent out was a big reason," Carpio-Zeller said of the police issue and how it might have affected the election results. "I have been waiting for valid information, which we have never received."
Householder said the council has been dragging its feet on the issue for three years.
"The police issue was on the surface. They keep talking about a police station we can't afford. But we're hemorrhaging. We're at the bottom. My thing is to stop that. I want to talk about how we can stabilize the finances, and redevelop the city."
About 20 percent of the city's 1,345 registered voters cast ballots.
Bangor council agrees on contract for new manager, treasurer
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
It's official. Bangor has a new city manager.
Richard Marsh, 52, of Southfield, plans to begin his new duties at the end of May.
Bangor City Council members, Monday, voted to hire Marsh at an annual salary of $59,000.
“We originally said between $50,000-$55,000, but when we looked at what Rich would forego in pension, travel and dues, it ended up being pretty much a wash,” said Interim City Manager Don Beavers. “Bangor has been facing difficult times and many candidates asked what our outstanding issues were. I realized that it would be difficult finding candidates. Rich has shown he's a good manager in other cities that he's worked at.”
Marsh spent part of this past week in Bangor, visiting with city officials and local residents.
“I had an opportunity to meet with many people,” he said. “I'm looking forward to my job here.”
The new city manager will have his work cut out for him when he starts his new duties.
The Downtown Development Authority and city council settled a lawsuit earlier this month, in which the DDA alleged the city had misappropriated funds for other uses. Although the two parties agreed to mediate their differences, Marsh will have to work with the DDA to help it come up with a new five-year plan and meet its membership requirements. The city also has to determine where to place its police department, after a fire shut down the department's building on Division Street. And, the city is facing several financial issues, mainly its dwindling budget reserves.
“I'm familiar with the issues facing Bangor — the DDA, finances and the police building.” Marsh said.
Marsh comes to Bangor after working two years as a municipal manager in Pontiac. Prior to that he served as city manager of Benton Harbor for 1-1/2 years, as assistant city manager in Jackson for two years, community and economic development director in Romulus for five years and senior planner of community development in Jackson for seven years.
In addition to hiring Marsh, Bangor city council members also named Lisa Imus as the city's new treasurer. Imus, who had been a city manager finalist for Bangor, will replace Cheri Parrish, who resigned in February to become treasurer/finance director for the City of Wayland, in northern Allegan County.
Imus, 44, of Kalamazoo, will begin her job May 13 at a starting annual salary of $38,700, which was what Parrish had been paid, according to Beavers.
Imus, a Gobles native, had served as assistant city manager in Grand Haven for four years, city manager of Allegan for four years and assistant city manager in Allegan for five years.
Leaking tank forces Palisades
to shut down
A leak in a safety injection refueling water tank forced Palisades Nuclear Power Plant to close on Sunday.
“Plant operators shut down the plant when water leakage from the tank exceeded a site threshold,” said Lindsay Rose, communications specialist for Palisades. “There is no impact on the health and safety of plant employees or the public.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors, who work at Palisades, monitored the shutdown of the plant, according to Viktoria Mitlyng of the NRC office of Public Affairs.
The tank is the same one that forced the plant to shutdown in 2012.
“The plant has been monitoring the leakage from the tank and had to shut down in accordance with the commitments made to the NRC in 2012, after the leak from the tank caused the plant to stop operation for repairs,” Mitlyng said.
“The NRC resident inspectors are closely following the plant's actions to identify the source of the leakage and repair the tank and the inspectors in the NRC Region 3 Office in Lisle, Ill., are evaluating these actions to make sure that the plant and the public continue to be safe.”
Kite boarder rescued from
A kite boarder was rescued from the choppy waves of Lake Michigan, Tuesday afternoon, after he had become tangled in his kite-board lines.
South Haven Area Emergency services found John Duda of Park City, Utah, about 200 yards from North Beach and brought him safely to shore.
Emergency responders received a call of a kite boarder in distress at 1:39 p.m. SHAES launched a fire boat from the Black River boat launch and reached the victim 15 minutes later. Duda was wearing a wet suit and flotation device which aided in his ability to stay afloat until a rescue boat arrived, according to Ronald Wise, executive director of SHAES.
Duda was taken back to shore in the fire boat along with his kite board.
SHAES strongly recommends that all persons on or near the water wear personal floatation devices at this time.
Tourism group gets boost in revenue from lodging establishments
By TRIBUNE STAFF
Tourism marketing in the South Haven area will receive a boost in revenue this year, thanks to an an agreement reached with lodging owners and a tourism group that promotes the area.
Owners of hotels and bed and breakfast inns that belong to the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau have agreed to increase their lodging assessments from 2 percent to 5 percent, starting in June.
The assessment, commonly referred to as a “bed tax” is what lodging owners pay the convention bureau from each room that is booked. The money goes to pay for marketing programs to bring more tourists to Van Buren County and southwest Allegan County, according to Lisa Shanley, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau.
“In 2010 many CVB’s around the state, including ours, lobbied the Michigan Legislature to pass a law that allows Convention & Visitors Bureaus of our size to increase our lodging assessment from two percent up to five percent,” Shanley said.
The rationale behind the increase was based on several factors, Shanley went on to say.
One, similar-sized destination marketing organizations (DMO’s) had not increased since the Act was passed in the early 1980’s while all other expenses like media, overhead and utilities have continued to climb.
Two, small -to mid-sized CVB’s, such as South Haven's, were at a competitive disadvantage with the larger metro CVB’s who were already collecting at a higher rate.
And three, the local CVB determined that in order to grow and build its destinations, it needed to expand its marketing reach and effectiveness, which costs money.
To gather support for the increased assessment, board members from the CVB visited each lodging establishment to discuss the proposal. For the proposal to pass a majority of lodging owners had to agree to it.
“Based on a total count of 1168 lodging rooms in our assessment district, which includes all of Van Buren County and Casco Township, (it) passed 526 to 333,” said Sally Newton, president of the convention bureau and rental manager of Shore Vacation Rentals.
Tourism officials think the assessment will provide a boost in tourism dollars spent in Van Buren County and Casco Township.
“The economic impact of visitors who come to South Haven and Van Buren County already exceeds $100 million annually, Shanley. said “Tourism ranks in the top three industries in the county. “
Alluding to the state's award-winning Pure Michigan Campaign, Shanley went on to say, “It’s because of amazing places like South Haven that those commercials are working. Beautiful beaches, abundant bike trails, amazing attractions, one-in-a-million sunsets, and a rich resort history – we have it all. Now with this boost, we are in a strong position to expand our reach and tell more people about it.”
Students qualify for National History Day competition
Students from the South Haven area earned high marks in the annual Michigan History Day competition, April 27, at Saginaw Valley State University. Finalists in the high school division will now qualify for the National History Day contest in June in College Park, Md.
“We were very impressed with this year’s projects,” said Tamara Barnes, MHD state coordinator. “The students applied this year’s theme—Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events—to everything from the Soo Locks’ impact on the Upper Peninsula to Disney’s Snow White. We’re excited to see what the Michigan delegation will accomplish at the national contest.”
Students from South Haven, Bangor, Covert and Gobles all earned top awards in the state competition.
Michigan History Day offers an opportunity to move social science beyond routine learning. Students perform research on an individually chosen topic. They then present their work through the disciplines of writing, art, literature, music, drama, and/or visual communications.
Michigan History Day is an educational program of the Historical Society of Michigan, the state’s oldest cultural organization. Lead sponsors of History Day include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Meijer, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Amway, Holland Area Historical Society, and Saginaw Valley State University.
Award winners from the South Haven area follow:
FIRST PLACE: “Walt Disney's Snow White: A Turning Point in Animation. Terra Buckley, Trent French and Katelyn Varney, North Shore Elementary School. Students are from both South Haven and Covert.
FIRST PLACE: “Opening the Doors,” Avery Anssin, Elise Postma and Kimberlee Klifman of North Shore Elementary School
SECOND PLACE: “Drums at Saratoga: Turning Point in War,” Ameerah Burton of North Shore Elementary School
THIRD PLACE: “Agriculture and the Civil War,” by William Hasted and Alexander Rummel of North Shore Elementary School
NATIONAL FINALIST: “The Black Plague: Turning the Tables of Serfdom,” by Justin Fragala of Gobles and a student at South Haven High School
ALTERNATE: “The Discovery of the New World and its Effects on the Slave Trade,” by Cameron Sleeper and Nathan VanderRoest of South Haven High School
NATIONAL FINALIST: “Turn Around in Forensics,” by Marissa Ross of South Haven High School
NATIONAL FINALIST: “Landmark Law,” by Maggie Filbrandt and Katie Lynne Edson of South Haven High School
NATIONAL FINALIST: “Turning the Tides of War: The Punic Wars, The Terror of Hannibal Braco vs. Scipio Africanus and the Rise of the Roman Era,” by Gladys Gonzalez, Russel Aspinwall and Garrett Fragala. A Gobles High School and South Haven High School collaboration
Best Entry in African American/People of African Descent World History
Winner: “Opening the Doors,” by Avery Anssin, Elisa Postma and Kimberlee Klifman of North Shore Elementary School
Best Entry in Native American History
Winner: “Bugonaygeshig's Battle at Sugar Point” by Drake McFadden, a Bangor resident and student at North Shore Elementary School
Hometown: Sault Ste. Marie
School: DeTour Area Schools
Occupants escape from burning home
Five people in Breedsville escaped from their burning home this morning after it caught fire.
The blaze was reported to Columbia Township Fire Rescue at 5 a.m., according to fire chief Dave Johnson. The name of the homeowner was not released.
When firefighters arrived six minutes later smoke was coming from the roof peak and eaves of the two-story home at 50 W. Main St.
Firefighters climbed to the second story and found heavy smoke and heat and extinguished the flames within 10 minutes, according to Johnson.
“The fire was contained to one bedroom, upstairs, with no real damage to the structure itself,” he said.
Bangor Community Fire Department and South Haven Area Emergency Services provided assistance.
Regional Pet Adopt-A-Thon scheduled
A variety of rescued animals will be available for adoption during the Pet Adopt-A-Thon, Saturday, April 27.
The event will take place from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Beery Field, in downtown Douglas.
“There will be lots of dogs and cats there for adoption as well as vendors selling pet related items,” said Karissa Ingalls of Al-Van Humane Society, one of the sponsors of the event. “Even if you're not looking to adopt; please join us in support of pet rescue.”
The event is a fund-raiser. The other organizations sponsoring it include Muskegon Humane Society, Best Pal Pets and TLC Chow Rescue.
Driver of three-car fatality faces up to 50 years in prison
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — A drunk driver who caused a collision that killed three people will spend up to 50 years behind bars.
Van Buren County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Brickley has sentenced David G. Johnson, 32, Grand Junction, to between 19-1/2 to 50 years in prison for second-degree murder in the crash that occurred in November 2012 in Geneva Township.
Brickley also sentenced Johnson to between 86 months and 15 years for the second charge of driving while intoxicated causing death. That sentence can be served concurrently, court officials said. Johnson was also ordered to pay $18,433 in restitution.
Originally, Johnson faced 11 charges for the deaths of driver Britney King, 24, Bangor; and passengers Kandice Berryhill, 2, and Cassadi Berryhill, 4, sisters from South Haven. The Nov. 13 crash on County Road 388 in Geneva Township also injured the Berryhill girls' father, Justin Berryhill, and Johnson.
As part of a plea deal, the other nine charges against Johnson were dropped after he pleaded guilty to the two remaining charges in March.
Court testimony from police indicated that Johnson's blood-alcohol content was three times higher than Michigan's legal limit of 0.08.
Student faces criminal charges after igniting pop-bottle bombs in school
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A Bangor High School student faces criminal charges after he planted two bottles of explosive chemicals in both the high school and middle school, Friday morning.
The 15-year-old student, whose name is not being released, was apprehended shortly after the pop bottle bombs exploded in a locker and in a bathroom trash can, according to Bangor Police Chief Gary Baker.
“This is a case of a prank gone bad,” Baker said.
High school officials became aware of the bombs when one exploded inside a high school locker shortly before 9 a.m.
“It was loud enough to hear,” high school principal Jeff Melvin said. “It sounded as if someone had knocked a book on the floor or a box.”
School officials investigated and found chemicals oozing from the bottom of the locker. When they looked inside, they saw the bomb, which was a 12-ounce plastic pop bottle filled with toilet bowl cleaner and tin foil.
“The combination of the two materials builds pressure inside the bottle and then you have a chemical reaction,” Melvin said. Although pop bottle bombs such as the ones the student had don't cause large explosions, the chemicals from the bombs can cause burns.
After discovering the bomb, school officials locked down the school at 9:10 a.m. and called police, who began searching both the high school and adjoining middle school for more explosive devices. They found another one that had exploded inside a middle school bathroom's trash can. They then began looking at video camera footage and saw the 15-year-old student coming out of the bathroom.
Police took the student into custody and began questioning him.
“He's a good kid, he made a dumb decision,” Melvin said. “He said, 'hasn't anyone heard of a prank?' But this is very scary in light of what just happened (the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15). If this had happened in somebody's back yard on the 4th of July they would laugh it off. But it's no laughing matter when it happens in school.”
Students in both the high school and middle school remained under lockdown conditions for two hours. Afterwards, two hundred or so parents came to the schools to take their students home. The rest of the students remained in classes until the end of the day.
The 15-year-old student not only faces criminal charges, but he will be suspended from school for at least 10 days, pending the outcome of Van Buren County Juvenile Court proceedings.
Bangor student in custody after planting two explosive devices in high school
and middle school
A Bangor High School student is in custody this morning after planting two bottles of explosive chemicals in the school.
The male student, whose name has not been released, put one bottle in a locker and another one into a bathroom in the middle school, which is connected to the high school, according to Schools Superintendent Ron Parker.
School officials first became aware of the chemical-filled plastic pop bottle in the locker after smelling a strong acidic odor. They opened the locker and found that the bottle had in fact, ignited. They put the school into lockdown at 9:10 a.m. and called police, according to Parker.
Police arrived and found another explosive bottle in a middle school bathroom. They then began going through video tapes of hallways. On video tape, the student was shown rolling a bottle into the bathroom. The student's teacher also had observed that he was “looking suspicious” when the school was put into lockdown.
When the student was asked why he had planted the explosive devises he told school authorities that he had been dared to do it.
As of now the school is still under lockdown as police continue to investigate the situation.
More information will be released as it becomes available.
Heavy rainfall over the past week and a half has raised the level of the Black River nearly to the bottom of a bridge on County Road 384 just west of 68th Street. This photo was taken this morning.
Much of South Haven area flooded as rain continues
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
“I came here from Holland, I know all about dikes and flooding,” said 83-year-old Jack Haumersen.
But he still doesn't like it when his driveway, yard and pond become flooded with water from the Black River.
Looking out the window of his home on 71-1/2 Street this morning, Haumersen shook his head.
“I've lived here since 1970 and this has happened about a half-dozen times or more, but I'd say this is one of the worst times it's flooded,” he said, referring to Wednesday night's thunderstorm that has left many yards, streets and basements flooded throughout the South Haven area.
And it will get worse. More thunderstorms are expected today and tonight and Van Buren and Berrien counties are under a tornado watch until 6 p.m.
Haumersen's attractive home and landscaped grounds sit next to the 71st-1/2 Street bridge over the Black River.
Today when he woke up, he saw water gushing over the road and into his yard, and then rushing into his pond, leaving sand and silt behind.
The gravel alongside the ditch on the west side of the road had washed away.
“I called the county right away,” Haumersen said.
By 9 a.m. Paul Immoos of the Van Buren County Road Commission drove by and began scraping the sand and gravel back to the side of the road to reinforce the ditch.
“There's quite a few wash-outs around the county,” he said. “Second Avenue at 70th Street is closed.”
The road commission isn't the only ones dealing with wash outs.
Chris Thompson, who lives on Baseline Road, spent part of her morning shoveling gravel into a portion of her driveway that had washed away from the flooding.
“I'm just trying to fill the holes in as best as I can,” she said. “If I try to drive over it I bottom out my car.”
Bangor quiz bowl team heads to state tournament
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Bangor High School's quiz bowl team members will put their intellect to the test Friday when they travel to Michigan State University to compete in the Michigan High School Quiz Bowl Class C-D state championship.
This year marks the first time the Vikings team has earned a trip to the state finals.
They did so earlier this year by capturing the championship trophy at the opening tournament of the Southwestern Athletic Conference quiz bowl.
Since then the team has went on to rack up 16 victories in the SAC tournament and captured the conference championship.
This is the first time we've ever made it to state,” said Phil Devers, who has been Bangor's quiz bowl coach for 14 years.
Not that the Bangor teams haven't been competitive.
“Last year we took second place in the SAC tournament,” Devers said. “So we've had some success, but this year it looks like we're the team to beat.”
The Vikings will open the state tournament against Jonesville at 9:45 a.m. The winner will play again at noon as the brackets move forward. The elimination round is on Saturday.
At the state meet teams compete in five timed matches, and like the popular TV quiz show, Jeopardy, the team that pushes the buzzer the fastest get the first chance to answer the questions.
“It's been a tremendous year already,” Devers said. “The team members are enjoying the recognition they have received, and they're seeing their dedication pay off. The student body and staff at the high school have been very supportive; hardly a day goes by without someone offering their good wishes or congratulations.”
The high school's Student Council shows its recognition by purchasing team shirts for the quiz bowl team to wear at the state tournament.
Fire destroys home in
Fire officials in Columbia Township blame a lit cigarette for a fire that destroyed a home, Sunday.
“A preliminary investigation points to smoking in bed as the cause of the fire,” Fire Chief Dave Johnson stated in a news release.
Firefighters were called at 4:48 p.m. to a home in the 14000 block of 52nd Street.
“Fire crews arrived within three minutes to find the fire had already burned through the exterior walls of the first-floor bedrooms on the north end of the home,” Johnson said.
Fire crews stopped the fire before it burned any more of the home, however, due to the extent of the smoke and heat damage, the home has been labeled a total loss.
The occupants of the home escaped from the fire unharmed.
South Haven, Bangor and Bloomingdale fire departments assisted in putting out the fire.
Father, two sons suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning
An Illinois father and his two sons were rushed to area hospitals, Sunday, after suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The 45-year-old man and his sons, 11 and 13, had been staying at a home on Magician Lake in Keeler Township. When they did not return home by 11 a.m. on Sunday, their mother called Van Buren County Sheriff's office to ask if they could check on her family members.
When deputies arrived at the home at 5:20 p.m. the 11-year-old boy had difficulty getting to the door. The boy was asked to wake his father. The man came stumbling out of his bedroom and then the 13-year-old boy, in a similar state, came out of the bathroom where he had apparently fallen asleep.
Deputies observed that all three needed medical help and called for ambulances.
Deputies then called the mother who said her husband had contacted her Saturday to say the furnace wasn't operating correctly, which is why she was concerned when her family members didn't arrive home by Sunday morning.
All three were taken to Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital in Dowagiac. The father was then transferred to Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids and was released this morning. The two boys were transferred to Bronson Hospital's Childrens Pediatric Unit and are reported in stable condition.
Waterfront Film Festival
wins $15,000 arts grant
The Waterfront Film Festival has received a $15,000 boost from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.
Grants are awarded to organizations each year as a way to “encourage, develop and facilitate an enriched environment of artistic, creative and cultural activity in Michigan.”
Independent filmmakers and thousands of people who appreciate fine filmmaking convene annually to enjoy Waterfront Film Festival, which brings more than 70 independent films, filmmaker panels and lively mixers to the scenic Lake Michigan shoreline for four days each June.
The 15th Annual Waterfront Film Festival will take place June 13-16 in South Haven.
“We very much appreciate the ongoing support of MCACA, both for its monetary contribution to the festival and for its constant validation of our efforts to bring independent film to Michigan, its residents and the region,” Co-founder Dori DePree said. “Without this type of support, the programming of a large-scale quality festival would be nearly impossible to achieve.”
Waterfront Film Festival is a non-profit organization that relies on grants and donations to continue its programming. There are many opportunities to get involved, including various sponsorship levels that come with VIP perks, advertising in the printed program, volunteer opportunities, and a variety of day and weekend passes that offer access to film and other fun festival weekend events. For more information see www.waterfrontfilm.org
Amtrak reports uptick in ridership, nationwide
Two Michigan lines
experience slight declines
Amtrak officials have something to smile about these days.
The nation's passenger rail service showed marked increases in ridership in the past six months and set a record in March for its single best month ever.
Amtrak has three lines that operate in Michigan, including the Pere Marquette, which has a station in Bangor.
Rebounding strongly from service disruptions caused by Superstorm Sandy and other severe weather, Amtrak ridership grew 0.9 percent from October through March, compared to the same period the prior year. In all, 26 of 45 routes posted ridership increases and Amtrak expects to end the fiscal year at or above last year’s record of 31.2 million passengers.
“The continued ridership growth on routes across the country reinforces the need for dedicated, multi-year federal operating and capital funding to support existing intercity passenger rail services and the development of new ones,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.
Routes with notable ridership growth in the past six months include the Wolverine Line in Michigan, which was an 8.2 percent jump in ridership. The Wolverine line runs from Detroit to Chicago. From October-March it transported 245,073 passengers, compared to 226,551 during the same time period last year.
However, ridership along the Pere Marquette Line (Grand Rapids to Chicago) and the Blue Water line, (Kalamazoo to Port Huron).
The Pere Marquette transported 49,401 passengers from October-March, down 2.2 percent from 50,520 passengers during the same period last year. The Blue Water line recorded 86,408 riders from October-March, down 3.1 percent from last year's figure of 89,190.
Police release names of armed robbery suspects arrested near South Haven
Two robbery suspects that were apprehended near South Haven this past week, face criminal charges for allegedly entering a home in Holland and stealing a big-screen television.
Carlos Leshon Massey, 20, of Holland, and Jamaal Burke, 21, of South Holland, Ill., were arraigned Monday in 58th District Court for armed robbery. The bond for each suspect was set at $100,000 cash/surety.
Holland Police say the two men entered a residence in the 200 block of 14th St. on April 6. Two people, who were in the home, said the suspects threatened them with a handgun and demanded cash. The victims did not have any cash. One of the suspects assaulted the male victim. Both suspects then left the residence after taking a large-screen TV.
The two victims provided police with a description of the suspects' vehicle and also gave police the name of one of the suspects, whom they had met earlier in the week.
The suspects were apprehended by South Haven Police and Allegan County Sheriff's deputies 45 minutes later on Interstate 196, just north of South Haven. Both the handgun and television were found in the vehicle, which was occupied by the two suspects and two other people.
The 20-year-old male victim, who was assaulted, was treated and released from Holland Hospital.
Lightning strikes home in Bangor Township
This morning's thunderstorm brought more than rain to the South Haven area.
Lightning from the storm struck a home at 28160 68th Street in Bangor Township causing a blaze that brought three fire departments to the scene.
Firefighters received the 911 call at approximately 10 a.m.
“Lightning struck the southwest corner of the home near the roof,” said Bangor Community Fire Department Chief Derek Babcock.
The lightning strike created a fire that caused several thousand dollars worth of damage to the roof and interior wall of the home.
“Luckily someone was home when the fire started and called right away,” Babcock said.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze. The couple who owns the home was not injured.
Covert and Columbia fire departments provided assistance.
Fire guts home in
A home in Casco Township suffered a lot of damage from a fire on Thursday, according to South Haven Area Emergency Services Deputy Fire Chief Tony Marsala.
South Haven Area Emergency Services firefighters were called to the two-story house at 45 Blue Star Highway shortly before midnight, Marsala said.
The owners were out of town at the time, and the cause of the fire had not been determined. The fire appears to have started in the living room, he said.
"It's pretty extensively damaged," Marsala said.
The Ganges fire department assisted at the scene.
Covert man faces drug charges
A Covert Township man faces drug charges after police found him in possession of marijuana and crack cocaine.
Terrance Mayes, 22, was arrested at 2 p.m., Thursday in the 67000 block of 56th Avenue in Hartford Township.
Van Buren County Sheriff's office reports that Mayes was pulled over for a traffic violation. Deputies found that he was driving with a suspended license and had a small amount of marijuana in his possession. He also had two outstanding warrants — one from Van Buren County Friend of the Court and the other for a misdemeanor traffic offense.
After being arrested and taken to Van Buren County Jail a deputy discovered that Mayes had a plastic baggie containing a large amount of individually knotted baggies with crack cocaine, weighing approximately one half ounce. That was seized along with $538 under the civil forfeiture law.
In addition to the outstanding warrants he could face Possession with Intent to Deliver Cocaine, Possession of Marijuana, Smuggling Contraband into a Corrections Facility and Driving with a Suspended License.
Nesbitt schedules coffee hours to hear voters' concerns
Area residents will get a chance to talk with State Rep. Aric Nesbitt when he holds coffee hours throughout the 66th District this week.
The 66th district includes Van Buren County, the City of Parchment in Kalamazoo County and Cooper and Alamo townships in northwestern Kalamazoo County.
Nesbitt, R-Lawton, is in his second term as a state representative for the 66th district (formerly the 80th district). He is the chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and a member of the Commerce, Tax Policy and Insurance committees.
A list of local coffee hour times and locations follows:
Wednesday, April 3 — Railroad Cafe, 555 Railroad Street, Bangor, 9 a.m.
Thursday, April 4 — Covert Township Hall, 73943 E. Lake St., Covert, 11 a.m.
Thursday, April 4 — Cafe Julia, 561 Huron St., South Haven, 1 p.m.
Gas prices start to creep up after a decrease in March
By TRIBUNE STAFF
Gas prices at the pump actually decreased in time for the Easter holiday, however, it appears they're going back up.
One week prior to the holiday, the average price per gallon for gasoline fell 9.9 cents, according to GasBuddy, an online organization that monitors gasoline prices throughout the United States.
The average price for regular unleaded hovered at $3.66 on Easter in Michigan, compared to the national average of $3.61. However, today, gas prices began creeping back up. Around the South Haven area, prices now range from $3.63 to $3.85.
"Gas prices in March came in like a lion and (went) out like a lamb," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "For the first time in a decade gasoline prices (were) lower at the end of March than the beginning. GasBuddy data shows that the last time this happened was in 2003 when prices fell a nickle between the start of the month and the conclusion. Essentially what we're seeing here this month is perhaps the largest monthly decrease ever during the month of March - a month that has almost always seen prices finishing the month substantially higher than where they entered."
Compared to last year at this time, prices at the pump, are lower, as well.
On March 31, 2012, gas prices were 36 cents higher than the same day this year.
City plans drawbridge inspection next week
Motorists who travel on the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge may want to consider taking a different route next week.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, crews from Hardesty & Hanover are scheduled to perform various electrical, mechanical, and structural inspections of the bridge, which spans the Black River. The work is anticipated to occur between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Work may continue Wednesday between 9 a.m. and noon, as needed.
During the inspection process, lane closures are anticipated, South Haven city officials say. One lane of traffic will be maintained with the use of a flag person. In addition, several extended bridge openings may occur. It is anticipated that the bridge may need to be left in the open position for a period of 10 minutes. Travelers may want to consider utilizing an alternate route during the scheduled inspection period.
The inspections are being performed as part of the design work for bridge rehabilitation.
New law banning teens from using cell phones while driving takes effect Thursday
Hint to teens: When you go to school on Thursday, don't use a cell phone while driving.
Starting tomorrow, teen drivers with Level 1 or Level 2 licenses under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program will be breaking the law if they use a cell phone while driving.
Known as Kelsey’s Law, the restriction was named in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, 17, of Sault Ste. Marie, who was killed in a cell phone-related crash in 2010.
To encourage teens not to use their cellphones while driving, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is launching the “Put Your Phone in Park” public information campaign. The campaign will include billboards, posters and brochures to remind teens about the law.
“Born from tragedy, Kelsey’s Law will help novice drivers focus solely on driving,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “The largest contributing factors to teen traffic crashes are inexperience and immaturity. Driver distractions only exacerbate these situations so we hope teens will remember to put their phone in park.”
Violations of Kelsey’s Law will be a civil infraction with fines up to $100 as well as possible additional costs up to $100. There are no points associated with this civil infraction and it does not impact status in the GDL program. Exemptions to the law include emergency situations and hands-free devices.
In 2011 in Michigan, 52 people were killed and 452 were seriously injured in crashes involving drivers ages 17 and younger. Of those fatalities, 16 were a 14-17-year-old driver.
Level 1 and Level 2 license holders are between 14 years, 9 months old and 17 years old.
The Michigan Legislature approved Kelsey’s Law at the end of the 2012 legislative session. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) and supported through the efforts of Kelsey’s mother, Bonnie.
State police crack down on illegal tobacco sales
People who buy really cheap smokes from a party store probably don't stop to consider the cigarettes may be illegal to sell, but state police are sure thinking about it.
In fact, police troopers throughout the state have seized nearly $300,000 million in illegal tobacco products and illegal merchandise, following a one-month sweep of 264 party stores, gas stations and smoke shops throughout the state, including ones in Van Buren and Allegan counties.
“The main reason these inspections took place is because of the tax evasion and fraud that's costing the state millions of dollars (in lost revenue),” said Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen of the Michigan State Police Fifth District office in Paw Paw. “In addition, businesses that are selling illegal items are hurting the ones that are trying to do things by the book.”
During their inspections, which took place in January, troopers found stores that had missing tobacco tax invoices, untaxed tobacco products, unstamped cigarettes, Gray Market cigarettes (cigarettes manufactured specifically for sale outside of the U.S.) and stores who were selling ‘loosies’ (single stick cigarettes).
In a number of instances, tobacco inspections led to the discovery of other illegal activity. Non-tobacco violations included a ‘bootleg’ DVD operation, possession of narcotics paraphernalia and liquor and Bridge Card violations. Troopers also recovered illegal items including K2/Spice and a marijuana dispensary in the form of a vending machine.
Most of the stores that state police checked in the Fifth District complied with state laws. However, one store in Niles definitely caught the troopers' attention.
“The store owner was selling counterfeit name-brand items,” Christensen said. “The value of the seized merchandise was more than $95,000. It included hats, jackets, shoes, purses, jewelry, sunglasses...a lot of the counterfeit name-brand merchandise comes from China.”
Troopers elsewhere in the state shared stories of similar hauls.
During the inspection of a party store in the Lansing area, troopers seized 196 pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes, 580 counterfeit sports team hats, 69 counterfeit Ralph Lauren Polo tops and 22 counterfeit Ralph Lauren Polo sweatsuits for a retail value of more than $44,900. During an inspection at a nearby party store, 298 pairs of counterfeit Nike shoes and 21 pairs of counterfeit Louis Vuitton shoes were seized with a retail value of more than $29,000.
Under Michigan law, it is a violation to possess, acquire, transport or sell any quantity of untaxed tobacco unless properly licensed. Violators of the Tobacco Products Tax Act are subject to up to five years imprisonment, along with seizure of assets from anyone possessing illegally purchased tobacco, along with fines and penalties.
State police are working with the state's attorney general's office to ensure businesses are complying with the Michigan Tobacco Products Tax Act so businesses can expect investigations to occur in the future, according to a Michigan State Police news release.
Anyone with information on individuals or retailers violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act is encouraged to contact the MSP Tobacco Tax Enforcement Team at (734) 525-4246. Callers can remain anonymous.
Consumers Energy's natural gas costs lowest in a decade
Consumers Energy, which serves a number of customers in Van Buren and Allegan counties, plans to lower natural gas fuel costs by 15 percent by April 1 – marking its largest price cut in recent history, company officials announced today.
“Consumers Energy has reduced natural gas costs since February 2012 by 26 percent, which is projected to save our customers about $200 million over the next year,” said Tim Sparks, the company's vice president of energy supply operations. “This is the largest price reduction in recent company history and it’s helping Michigan families and businesses.”
A typical Michigan family saved about $150 as a result of Consumers Energy’s efforts to reduce gas fuel costs over the past year. Annual savings for businesses and manufacturers can be thousands of dollars due to larger volumes of gas used in their operations.
“Prices charged by Consumers Energy for natural gas are the lowest they’ve been in a decade - since 2003 - and we are pursuing future savings,” Sparks said. “This is a positive signpost for Michigan’s economy and the communities we serve.”
Consumers Energy is positioned to take advantage of lower-priced natural gas now available in the United States. Because of the company's storage system -- one of the largest in the country – Consumers can purchase gas when it’s lower priced in warmer months, thereby avoiding the higher-priced spot market in winter months.
Sparks noted that Consumers Energy continues to invest in its natural gas infrastructure to take advantage of lower-cost supplies, benefiting customers now and in the future. Projects include expansion and updating of gas compressor stations and replacement of natural gas pipelines. The company delivers natural gas to 1.7 million customers in 45 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Agency may be skipping a few meals
Mobile Meals worried about fallout from federal sequestration
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Each week day, 25-28 older adults enjoy a lunch at Warren Senior Center courtesy of Senior Nutrition of Southwest Michigan Meals on Wheels program.
But officials who run the program wonder just how long those daily meals will continue.
“We're down 28 percent (in state and federal funding) since 2009,” said Linda Strohl, the program's executive director. Senior Nutrition's latest budget reduction may occur later this year as a result of the 203 federal budget sequester. If and when the cutback takes place, the agency could lose 5 percent more of its funding.
“That equates to 11,000 meals in six months,” Strohl said.
To deal with the latest possible funding reduction, Senior Nutrition may stop delivering its evening supper sacks to its homebound clients.
“It (will be) a difficult decision to make,” Strohl said. “We have tried to make the case (to legislators) that delivering a meal at $5 (per person) prevents early institutionalization of seniors in nursing homes.”
Meals on Wheels delivers 300 meals a day to seniors living at home in Van Buren and Berrien counties and another 250-300 a day to senior centers in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.
Food is prepared in Benton Harbor and Coloma and then shipped to homes and sites by 30 staff members and more than 50 volunteers.
“It's a challenge,' Strohl said, especially in light of the cutbacks over the past three years. “We've cut back on staffing, but you can only cut so much. I'll be taking furloughs (if the latest budget reduction goes through).”
Seniors who participate in the Meals on Wheels program receive a nutritious meal that contains a variety of items. At the Meal with the Mayor program at the Warren Center this past Wednesday, ham with pineapple, a salad, potatoes and peas was served, along with an orange. Meals on Wheels provides the meals in conjunction with the Area Agency on Aging Region IV, in St. Joseph.
Participants in the program, who were interviewed, say they enjoy the meals.
“I wish they'd serve meals three times a day,” said Mary Olendorf, who resides in River Terrace apartments.
“I'm afraid if more people don't come to these meals they'll (state and federal government) cut it,” said Violet Homfeldt.
But getting more seniors to participate may not be the problem. “We have 35 (homebound) people in Van Buren County on a waiting list,” Strohl said.
To supplement its federal funding, Meals on Wheels has had to turn its attention to finding other sources for revenue. It receives support from the United Way of Van Buren County and the United Way of Southwestern Michigan. The program also partners with area programs, such as Van Buren County Senior Service, to make sure seniors receive the meals.
“We are grateful to Van Buren Senior Services and the South Haven Housing Commission,” Strohl said. “They don't charge us rent for the kitchen and the dining area of the Warren Senior Center.”
Traffic deaths increase in Michigan; motorcycle fatalities up 18 percent
While Michigan traffic crashes and injuries were down in 2012, fatalities increased 5 percent over 2011 from 889 to 936, according to the Michigan Department of State Police (MSP) Criminal Justice Information Center. The number of traffic crashes fell 4 percent to 273,891 from 284,049 in 2011. Injuries were down 2 percent to 70,519 from 71,796 in 2011.
Increases were noted in motorcyclist fatalities, up 18 percent over 2011, and alcohol- and drug-involved fatalities, up 3 percent to 281 and 6 percent to 135 respectively.
“Michigan’s increase in traffic fatalities mirrors what has taken place across the country,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, MSP director. “Despite an increase in traffic deaths last year, the long-term picture indicates this is the fifth year in a row Michigan had fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths. Ten years ago there were nearly 1,300 people who died as a result of traffic crashes in our state.”
Despite increases in traffic fatalities and alcohol and drug involvement, teen fatalities declined 14 percent, from 99 in 2011 to 85 in 2012.
The state has experienced significant decreases in traffic crashes over the past decade, from 395,515 in 2002 to 273,891 in 2012. Similarly, alcohol- and/or drug-involved fatalities have dropped from 463 in 2002 to 342 in 2012.
In other areas:
2 Gobles students injured in roll-over accident
BLOOMINGDALE — Speed played a factor in a car crash Thursday afternoon that sent two Gobles High School students to the hospital.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies report that 17-year-old Shawn Steinman was traveling east on 24th Avenue in Bloomingdale Township at a high rate of speed when he lost control of his 1998 Audi. The car hit and tree and overturned, ejecting Steinman, who was not wearing a seatbelt. His passenger, Jamie Summerville, also, 17, was able to free himself from the car by the time rescue workers arrived.
Steinman was severely injured and taken by ambulance to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo where is listed in serious condition. Summerville's parents took him to a hospital for his injuries.
The two students had been returning to Gobles High School from the Van Buren County Vo-Tech School in Lawrence when the accident occurred at 2:40 p.m.
Gobles High School officials were contacted and told deputies they would have extra staff available Friday to help students deal with the incident and injuries their two classmates had received.
Grand Junction man dies in one-car accident
A 38-year-old Grand Junction has died after his car slammed into a tree in Columbia Township.
Timothy Thurston was found deceased in his 1996 Mazda at 7:15 a.m. today in the 46000 block of Baseline Road, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's report.
Deputies received a call regarding the one-vehicle crash and arrived to see the car up against a tree, heavily damaged. When first responders checked the inside of the vehicle they found Thurston had already succumbed to injuries from the crash. Columbia Township fire rescue workers used the “Jaws of Life” to remove the victim from his vehicle.
Preliminary investigation into the crash indicates Thurston had most likely been traveling west on Baseline Road and left the roadway, striking a large tree nearly head-on. Investigators don't yet know why Thurston left the roadway but think the speed he was traveling appears to be a factor. Deputies plan to obtain toxicology results to determine if alcohol use may have played a role in the accident.
The incident remains under investigation.
Law enforcement cracking
down on drunk drivers
through April 8
A warning from police to motorists: Luck may belong to the Irish and might even help a college hoops team make it through the playoffs, but it won’t help Michigan motorists who don’t designate a sober driver over the next couple of weeks.
Law enforcement agencies in 26 counties, including Allegan, Van Buren and Berrien, are conducting more than 13,200 hours of extra patrols to arrest drunk drivers today through April 8. This time period includes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's and women’s basketball tournaments, high school and college spring break periods and St. Patrick’s Day. A five-year review of crash data indicates both alcohol use and lack of seat belts play a significant role in fatal and serious injury crashes in March and early April, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.
Law enforcement officers from 155 agencies are participating in the crackdown. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is coordinating the effort, which is supported by federal traffic safety funds.
In 2012, 2,488 people were arrested for drunk driving during the NCAA tournament time period. Of those, 789 were arrested under the state’s high blood-alcohol content (BAC) law with BAC’s of .17 or higher. More than 400 of those arrests were made by grant-funded law enforcement agencies during last year’s drunk driving crackdown.
In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher.
Man involved in fatal Geneva Twp. crash pleads guilty to 2nd-degree murder
A man involved in a crash that killed three people in Geneva Township could face up to life in prison.
David Glen Johnson pleaded guilty Friday to second degree murder and operating a vehicle under the influence causing death. His sentencing in Van Buren Circuit Court is scheduled April 19, according to a spokesperson for the Van Buren County prosecutor's office.
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to life in prison, while operating a vehicle under the influence causing death carries a penalty of up to 15 years incarceration.
Johnson, 32, of Grand Junction, originally faced 11 criminal charges in connection to the deaths of sisters Cassadi and Kandice Berryhill, 4 and 2, of South Haven and their aunt Britney King, 24 of Bangor, on Nov.. 13, 2012 on County Road 388.
The crash also caused injury to the little girls' father, Justin Berryhill, and to Johnson, himself.
Johnson told police at the time that he had had a few drinks. A toxicology report showed his bloodalcohol level at 0.26, while police put the level at 0.32. The legal level for a Michigan driver is 0.08.
Police confiscate meth lab in Lee Township
Several people in Lee Township, including a 16-year-old male, could face criminal charges after deputies discovered a meth lab at a home in the 5300 block of Baseline Road.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies made the drug bust at 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 8, after obtaining a search warrant.
Inside the home, deputies found a one-pot meth lab, finished methamphetamine, marijuana, a jar containing suspected meth oil from a one-pot meth lab, an HCL gas generator, illegal drug paraphernalia and additional items used in making meth. Deputies also found meth in one of the suspect's vehicles.
Deputies arrested Sammy Street, 35, one of the home's occupants, on an outstanding warrant. They also arrested a 22-year-old woman, who was visiting Street's home, on an outstanding warrant.
The other occupants of the home included a 33-year-old woman, a 16-year-old male, an 11-year-old male and a 3-year-old child.
A 29-year-old male visitor was also at the home at the time of the bust.
Street, the 33-year-old woman, the 29-year-old visitor and the 16-year-old could all be facing a variety of drug charges. Allegan County Child Protective Services will be conducting an investigation regarding the safety of the children in the home.
Allegan County Sheriff's Department and Van Buren County sheriff's narcotics detectives assisted in the drug bust.
Anyone with information can contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s office at (269) 657-3101, Crime Stoppers 1-800-342-7867, Silent Observer (269) 343-2100 or your local police department.
Senate approves legislation to fund two grants for South Haven; House to vote on measure Wednesday
South Haven is in line to receive more than $882,000 in grant funding for the development of a recreation trail and the protection of public land.
The State Senate has approved legislation allocating more than $23 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to natural resources improvement projects across the state, said Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph. The bill now heads to the State House of Representatives, which plans to vote on the measure Wednesday.
Four of the projects are located in southwestern Michigan, including two in South Haven.
South Haven's grants follow:
• A $217,400 grant for a $363,400 expansion of the Van Buren Trail into South Haven, downtown area. The city plans to create bike lanes and paths starting at Huron and Kalamazoo Street. The bike lane/paths would continue on Maple Street to Aylworth where the current Van Buren Trail ends. If the grant funding is approved city officials hope to start the project in the fall of 2013 or the spring of 2014, according to City Manager Brian Dissette.
• A $665,000 grant toward a $950,000 purchase of four lots along Monroe Boulevard, between Van Buren and Clinton streets, to preserve for public use. If the grant is approved, the lots could be bought in the fall of 2013 or the spring of 2014.
“The trust fund’s recommendation of funding for the Van Buren Trail connection advances the city council’s goal of creating bicycle and pedestrian paths to increase economic viability for our community,” said Robert Burr, mayor of South Haven. “This is one more step toward developing a healthy, vibrant, friendly environment throughout the city and surrounding townships.”
The NRTF is supported by annual revenue from the development of state-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas, and is administered by the trust fund’s board of trustees and the grants management office of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The constitutionally restricted funds provide financial assistance to local governments and the DNR to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. The funds also assist in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.
“The Natural Resources Trust Fund is dedicated to making Michigan a better place to live, work and raise a family. Enhancing our quality of life with vibrant parks and recreational resources helps make our state more attractive to job creators and top talent,” said Proos, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This measure invests nearly $1.5 million to help fund four projects in Southwest Michigan.
The other two projects include development of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail in Berrien County and improvements to Silver Beach in St. Joseph.
Truck overturns near Pullman exit of I-196
A semi-truck carrying a load of ethylene glycol overturned on Interstate 196 at the Pullman exit early this morning.
The accident was reported at 3:55 a.m. and occurred on the highway's northbound lane, according to Ron Ridley of South Haven Area Emergency Services. The driver was injured and taken to South Haven Health System for further observation.
Allegan County Sheriff's Department closed the northbound lane temporarily, but it is now open to traffic, however the northbound exit for 109th Avenue is still closed. Motorists who need to get onto 109th Avenue can use Blue Star Highway or 66th Street. None of the ethylene glycol, commonly used as an automotive anti-freeze, leaked, however some diesel fuel did. Emergency workers spent time this morning cleaning it up.
No further information about the accident is available at this time.
Don't forget to 'spring ahead' when daylight savings time starts Sunday
Daylight savings time will continue to occur mid-March, thanks to an extension of a federal program co-authored by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph.
When daylight savings time begins Sunday, area residents will set their clocks forward one hour, creating longer daylight when evening comes.
And while an hour may not make a difference to most people, it transfers into millions of dollars of electrical energy savings, nationwide, according to Upton.
“An annual rite of spring, daylight saving time is also a matter of energy conservation,” said Upton, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “By having a little more natural daylight at our disposal, we can help keep daily energy costs down for families and businesses.”
As part of the 2005 Energy Bill, Reps. Upton and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), amended the Uniform Time Act of 1996 to increase the portion of the year that is subject to daylight savings time, providing longer hours of daylight and helping consumers cut back on peak-hour electricity usage. The Upton-Markey Amendment extended the duration of daylight savings time in the spring by changing its start date from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March, and in the fall by changing its end date from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November.
The amendment required that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prepare a report evaluating the impact of the extended DST program. The key findings of the DOE report, issued in October 2008, included:
• The total electricity savings of Extended Daylight Saving Time were about 1.3 Tera Watt-hour (TWh). This corresponds to a reduction in total use per individual of 0.5 percent per each day of Extended Daylight Saving Time.
• These savings translate to $498 million in electricity savings and reduced oil usage of 2.9 million barrels of oil.
• During Extended Daylight Saving Time, electricity savings generally occurred over a three- to five-hour period in the evening with small increases in usage during the early-morning hours.
City takes action on dredging harbor, municipal marinas
As spring approaches, South Haven City Council is rolling out plans to dredge sections of the harbor and municipal marinas.
South Haven City Council has approved a bid to dredge the North Side and South Side Municipal Marinas.
Gro America submitted the low bid of $236,653 for dredging the North Side and South
Side Municipal Marinas to a depth of 8 feet below low water datum, according to city Harbormaster Paul VandenBosch.
The city council, Monday, also authorized additional funding for a change order to
dredge the harbor's turning basin and a channel for the Friends Goodwill tall ship.
Work is expected to begin in April and be completed by early May.
Other dredging projects are in the works, as well. City officials have submitted a dredging permit application and has will prepare bid specifications for dredging the Black River from the Lake Michigan pierheads to the city limits near Blue Star Highway. It is the City's intent to bid and authorize the dredging project for completion by June 30, according to VandenBosch.
To help fund the dredging projects, the city recently received a verbal commitment from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for emergency dredging grant funding in the amount of $436,050. Other funding sources for dredging projects will include the city's Marina Fund and the River Maintenance Fund.
Elkenburg Park renovations scheduled to begin mid-March
Winter's not quite over yet, but workers plan to begin making improvements at Elkenburg Park by mid-March.
By the project's Memorial Day completion date, the park will have three new basketball courts, a new sidewalk, a remodeled restroom, new benches, picnic tables, fencing and landscaping, according to South Haven city communications manager Deb Davidson.
The Elkenburg Park Improvement Project is funded by the City of South Haven and by
the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The improvements are expected to
cost $240,000, with the City paying one third, and the state footing the rest of the bill.
“Some parts of the park will be under construction and will not be available for use in
March, April and May,” Davidson cautioned. “The restrooms will be under construction through March, April and May. The restrooms will receive a full remodeling with new trim and fixtures.”
One of the biggest undertakings will be construction of the new basketball courts.
“The existing basketball courts will be removed so that the drainage and gravel base for
the new courts can be installed,” Davidson explained. “There will be a two-week cure time between when the asphalt is laid down for the basketball courts and when the striping and
marking can be done.”
The project also includes relocation of playground equipment, pouring of sidewalks in late April and installation of fencing, benches and landscaping in May. “Grass seeding and landscaping may take some time to be fully complete,” Davidson said.
Six inches of snow predicted for South Haven area
After three days of dry weather, snow is expected to return to the South Haven area, Tuesday.
The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids is issuing a winter storm watch that will last from Tuesday morning until late Tuesday evening.
The South Haven area and the rest of Van Buren County could see up to six inches of snow by Tuesday night. The snow is expected to begin falling after 11 a.m. and could be wet and heavy, creating difficult driving conditions and isolated power outages due to fallen tree limbs.
Three inches of snow is expected during the day on Tuesday with three more inches in the evening. The temperature will be in the low 30s.
Lawrence man charged with cock-fighting; Police find 18 dead roosters
A 32-year-old Lawrence man faces several criminal charges after Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies discovered a cock-fighting operation going on at his home.
Deputies received a tip of possible cockfighting going on at a residence in the 56000 block of 48th Avenue. They went to the home at 9:50 p.m., Sunday, and talked to home owner and suspect Bobby Johnson, who at first claimed he had fought one rooster that night. But a stolen quad runner in a pole barn made deputies more suspicious. They obtained a search warrant and found an area used for cockfighting, 18 dead roosters, the stolen quad runner, a stolen mini-bike, $5,000 in cash, and paperwork and paraphernalia related to cockfighting.
Johnson was taken to Van Buren County jail and arraigned today in Seventh District Court east on three counts of animal fighting (each a five-year felony); two counts of receiving and concealing stolen property (each a five-year felony); and one misdemeanor count of receiving and concealing stolen property. His bond was set at $20,000 and a pre-trial is scheduled March 12.
Former South Haven grocery chain employee pleads guilty to embezzlement
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
Christopher E. Pratt, the former controller of the Village Market grocery chain based in South Haven, has pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge.
He was accused of embezzling $6.4 million from the grocery chain, and could face up to 20 years in prison.
Because he pleaded guilty last week, he will likely get a sentence less than the 20-year maximum, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Bogula.
Pratt allegedly stole the money from his employer between 2004 and 2012, diverting Village Market funds to pay for his personal credit cards. Borgula said it appears Pratt mainly used the money to buy and maintain a fleet of high-end sports cars.
Court records filed last year in Van Buren County, as part of the civil case against him by Village Market Food Centers, said Pratt had at least 30 cars, including two 1967 Chevy Chevelles, seven 1967 Ford Mustangs, and three 1970 Dodge Chargers.
Pratt also owned more than two dozen properties, mostly in Kalamazoo, court documents said. Pratt was only making $15,000 a year as part-time controller in his last few years with the company, after his work hours dwindled.
Pratt was hired on as a staff accountant in 1995, and promoted to controller in 2001.
As part of the plea deal, Pratt has agreed to work with authorities to locate and return all assets to Village Markets. The cars have already been turned over to Village Market, Borgula said last week.
The alleged embezzlement scheme unraveled last year when an outside accounting consultant was brought in to work on balance sheet account reconciliation at the request of Village Markets' bank.
In April 2012, the consultant uncovered unusual account activities related to several of Pratt's personal bank accounts, and brought it to the attention of the company's president and general manager Stephen Murk.
Murk contacted a regional asset manager for Spartan Stores, of which the Village Market stores are a member, to investigate. On May 7, 2012, during a confrontation with Pratt by the asset manager and FBI agents, Pratt allegedly confessed, according to court documents.
Woman refuses to fall for scam
A Keeler Township resident outsmarted a scammer on Thursday when refusing to believe she had won a $100 gift card.
The woman told Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies she had originally received a post card in the mail indicating she was eligible to receive a $100 gift certificate that could be used for either Walmart or Target. The woman went ahead and called the number on the post card (1-855-628-7768) and was told she would receive the gift card for a processing fee of $6.95. The person on the other end of the phone had a foreign accent and asked the woman to pay for the fee with a credit card number.
The woman refused and hung up the phone.
A call to Walmart showed that store officials were not aware of any such promotion.
“There are many types of these scams out there and when in doubt, just don't do it,” said David Walker of the sheriff's department.
Deputies urge area residents to use extreme caution in providing any type of personal account information over the phone such as credit card numbers, banking information or other identifying information to strangers.
Bangor city council members face challengers
Bangor's mayor and two city council members will face challengers in the upcoming election, May 7.
Mayor Jennifer Carpio-Zeller is being challenged by Nick Householder, while council incumbents Lynne Farmer and Patti Waite will compete against Jim Tanner and Robert Freislinger.
Carpio-Zeller, 47, has been mayor since January 2011. She was appointed to fill the seat when Richard “Shad” Sutherby died. She then won election in May 2011. She has served on the council since 2002.
Waite, 49, joined the council in 2012 after winning a one-year seat. Farmer, 63, has been on the council since 2011. She was first appointed to fill a vacancy and then was re-elected in 2012 to a one-year term.
Freislinger, 49, is a former city council member, while Tanner, 77, currently serves as treasurer of the Bangor Downtown Development Authority.
Allegan, Van Buren counties experience fewer fraud complaints in 2012,
according to report
A number of southwestern Michigan communities experienced far less fraud last year compared to 2011 according to a study released this week by the Federal Trade Commission.
In 2012, Western Michigan metro areas ranked much lower in frauds reported than in 2011. For example, in 2011 the Allegan metro area (Allegan County) ranked 10th in the United States for reported frauds per 100,000 population, and in 2012 Allegan ranked 380th. The Kalamazoo metro area (Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties) ranked 17th in 2011 and 144th in 2012.
"These statistics are encouraging. It appears that many consumers are becoming educated about fraudulent business practices and are not being taken advantage of," commented Phil Catlett, the President of the Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan. "We will strive in 2013 to educate consumers throughout these areas to reduce these numbers again."
The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) received more than 2 million complaints during 2012: 52 percent fraud complaints; 18 percent identity theft complaints; and 30 percent other types of complaints. The statistics reported by CSN are compiled from many sources, with the largest amount of complaint information being reported through the Better Business Bureau.
Identity Theft was the number one fraud complaint category with 18 percent of the overall complaints, followed by Debt Collection (10 percent); Banks and Lenders (6 percent); Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (6 percent); Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (5 percent); Impostor Scams (4 percent); Internet Services (4 percent); Auto Related Complaints (4 percent); Telephone and Mobile Services (4 percent); and Credit Cards (3 percent).
Of complaints reporting the first type of fraudulent contact, 38 percent said email, 34 percent said telephone, and only 9 percent reported mail as the initial point of contact.
Government documents/benefits fraud (46 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by credit card fraud (13 percent), phone or utilities fraud (10 percent), and bank fraud (6 percent).
More statistics are available through the Federal Trade Commission website.
Area home market could soon become a seller's market
It looks like the real-estate market, which has been geared toward buyers for the past four years, could be slowly changing to a seller's market.
The latest statistics of home sales in Southwestern Michigan show marked improvement over four years ago when prices began to fall and foreclosures began to rise.
“This January the average selling price of $164,037 was 43 percent higher than the January, 2009 average selling price of $94,564,” said Gary Walter, executive vice president of the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors.
The number of homes sold also shows improvement. “The lowest numbers occurred in January 2009 when 120 houses were sold and the total dollar volume was $11,347,650 compared to this January when 155 houses were sold and the total dollar volume was $25,425,659,” Walter said.
The number of home sales in January were slightly off from the same time a year ago, when the association recorded 159 home sales, but Walter said he is still pleased with the results.
“Last month we were just four houses short of matching the number of houses sold and closed in January, 2012 and consequently the total dollar volume was slightly lower,” he said.
As the home sales increase, the number of foreclosed properties is starting to dwindle in Southwestern Michigan. The number of banked owned or foreclosed houses as a percentage of all transactions was at the lowest point since 2009. In January of this year 28 percent of the association's transactions were banked-owned or foreclosed houses verses 57 percent in 2009.
“Locally, the housing inventory is decreasing also,” Walter said. “On Jan. 31, we had 2,237 houses listed for sale, which was an 11 percent decline from a year ago. At this inventory level, based on the last 12- month’s sales, we have a 9.5 month supply of homes for sale. Last year in January our inventory gave us a 12.8-month supply.”
The numbers reported for local sales include residential property in Berrien, and the western half of Van Buren and Cass counties. All three counties are included in numbers and percentages and do not reflect differences in any individual areas.
Local group takes on gun control issue
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
As national political leaders debate the pros and cons of tougher gun control laws, closer to home, a local group plans to tackle the issue as well.
The forum, “Gun Control – Diverse Opinions,” will take place at 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 5 at Lake Michigan College's South Haven campus, 125 Veterans Blvd.
“This topic is not only a national concern but is being discussed locally,” said Harold Filbrandt, chairperson of the South Haven Area Diversity Coalition, sponsor of the event. “Everywhere you go people are talking about it.”
Whether the nation should tighten gun control requirements came to the forefront in the wake of the tragic deaths of 26 students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut this past December. The students were killed by a lone gunman who was later apprehended by police and awaits trial. Since then, a rash of random shootings have taken place throughout the United States, prompting some, including President Barack Obama, to push for stiffer gun control legislation.
“It's definitely an issue,” Filbrandt said. “The aim of the forum is not to take a side but listen to each other.”
Five speakers plan to present their views on gun control issues during the forum, which will be moderated by Elaine Fluck, a retired teacher and librarian of South Haven Public Schools. Speakers include Van Buren Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Brickley, South Haven Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera, South Haven Police Chief Tom Martin, David Wiatrowski of the South Haven Rod and Gun Club and Deb Neiboer, executive director of the Van Buren County Domestic Violence Prevention Coalition.
Rams bowlers qualify for state tourney; Capture 1st place at regional contest
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven's boys bowling team will head to the Division 3 state finals March 1-2, after winning the regional championship, Friday, at Airway Lanes in Kalamazoo.
The Rams took the regional win with 3,814 points. Coloma came in second with 3,718 points, and Marshall followed in third with 3,703 points. All three teams qualify for the state competition.
“All six boys bowled well,” said South Haven coach Barry Skuza. “No one got real hot and nobody was real bad. It was a great team effort all the way around.”
Jacob Niffenegger led South Haven with a three-game series of 568. He was followed by Alex Davis, with a 562 and his brother, Willie, with a 561.
This year marks the third time the Rams have qualified for the Division 3 state tournament. In 2011, they bowled to a third-place finish at the regional competition. In 2012 the team improved at regionals with a second-place finish and made it to the state semi-finals before falling to Corunna.
Thirteen teams competed in the regional contest this past Friday. Other teams included Portland, Battle Creek Pennfield, Comstock, Paw Paw, Allegan, Otsego, Lansing-JW Sexton, Perry, Parchment and Hopkins.
The Lady Rams ended up with a ninth-place finish at the regional tourney. South Haven finished with 2,717 points. Molly DeGrandchamp led in scoring with a three-game 421 finish. She was followed by Samantha Simon with a 393 and Kendall Hoyt with 384.
Skuza was pleased with the girls' efforts. “They came in ninth out of 13 teams, which is good for a young team,” he said.
Battle Creek Pennfield won the girls regional tournament with 3,422 points. Perry placed second with 3,283 and Marshall came in third with 3,219.
Rescue workers use the jaws of life to extricate a Bangor woman from her vehicle after it was involved in a two-car accident in Bloomingdale Township this morning.
Bangor woman injured in two-car crash
A Bangor woman suffered injuries in a two-car accident this morning in Bloomingdale Township.
Debra Fowler, 56, was taken by ambulance to Bronson Lakeview Hospital in Paw Paw with a broken leg and other non life-threatening injuries, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's news release.
Fowler was headed north on County Road 665 at 10 a.m. when her Mercury Sable was struck by a GMC Yukon driven by Elizabeth Billings, 34, of Bloomingdale. Billings had been traveling eastbound on 24th Avenue when she failed to yield the right-of-way at the CR 665 intersection.
Billings was not injured in the accident, nor were her two children, who were in the back seat of the vehicle.
Bloomingdale rescue workers had to use the jaws of life to extricate Fowler from her vehicle. Both drivers were wearing seat belts. Billings' children were properly secured in child-restraint seats.
Billings was ticketed for failing to yield the right-of-way.
Court testimony: Ray Barry implicated himself
In the 2002 death of his neighbor Chris Green
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
PAW PAW - Three people testified, Thursday, that Ray Barry made statements implicating himself in the December 2002 fatal beating and stabbing of his Geneva Township neighbor, Christopher Green.
The testimony was part of the preliminary hearing on the murder charge against Barry in Van Buren County District Court. The hearing took place Thursday in the circuit courtroom in Paw Paw because Barry, who has a hearing problem, needed special accommodations.
Antonio Harris, who grew up in the same neighborhood with Barry, testified that sometime after Green's body was found in a ditch, Barry called him and confessed.
"He called me up, and said, 'You want to know something? You know that incident that happened? I did it,'" Harris said. "He just said he beat him up. He also mentioned he may have got blood on his shoes."
Harris said he didn't take Barry seriously.
Jean Black, the former girlfriend of Barry's half-brother Claude Taylor, testified that the day after the alleged homicide occurred, Barry was at their apartment in Bangor and was pacing like he was worried about something.
"He kept pacing. I asked him what was wrong," she testified.
Barry responded that he had seen someone looking into his window and went out and caught him. He said he didn't know who it was. She also said he was wearing boots, a week after she had bought him new shoes.
Barry told her he had thrown the shoes into the burn barrel.
Meanwhile, Taylor testified Barry told him he had seen Green peering into the window and he thought he might be trying to break in. So he went outside and beat and stabbed him.
Later, Taylor agreed to wear a wire for investigators in the case and was able to get Barry to make recorded, incriminating statements about the murder. In exchange for his cooperation, police agreed to be lenient to Taylor for at least two crimes, including a Berrien County home invasion. The recordings were not played in court.
Barry, who has an extensive criminal record, had been at the Adrian state prison and was brought back to the Van Buren County Jail to face the murder charge.
The preliminary hearing will resume sometime in March. No date has yet been scheduled.
DNR to provide funds for dredging of SH harbor
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven is in line to receive a $436,000 grant from the state to assist in dredging the city's harbor.
The funds will come from an emergency dredging plan developed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR plan requests that the money be appropriated from the Waterways Fund and a portion from the general fund. The DNR also hopes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government will provide supplemental funding, according to a news release issued Wednesday by State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph.
“As a member of the Senate Waterways Caucus, I am a long-time advocate of maintaining both public and private harbors,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Properly maintaining our harbors is critical to the economic viability and the financial bottom line of shippers and importers and to the success of the growing tourism in Southwest Michigan.”
The city received word of the grant following a request in December to receive funds, according to Paul VandenBosch, assistant city manager and harbormaster.
The city is faced with a number of dredging issues for the 2013 boating season as a result of historic low lake and river levels.
The DNR Waterways grant funds will be used to dredge the Michigan Maritime Museum marina, the south and north side marinas, Black River Park, upper harbor dredging and spot dredging. Some funds will also be used to remove soil from the pierheads and channel in what is considered the “federal harbor.”
But, the funding won't be enough to deal with all the dredging concerns facing the city.
According to VandenBosch, there are areas near the pierhead area that are only 10 deep. However, the proposed maintenance depth should be 14 feet. In the upper channel, the city realistically needs to dredge it every five years at a cost of $250,000, and then do spot-dredging as needed. Unfortunately, the low water levels will make dredging difficult. The city's harbor commission stipulates that there has to be a minimum of three feet cover above water, sanitary and electrical underground structures. As a result, a dredging contractor would be required to dredge to a depth of no more than 4.5 feet below current water levels.
“This impacts deep draft vessels, especially sailboats, however, as we approach a depth of four feet, even motor boat captains start to be concerned,” VandenBosch said.
Historically, the city has taken the responsibility to dredge the upper harbor (which is north of the Dyckman bridge) and the four marinas it owns, while the Army Corps of Engineers dealt with the area around the piers.
However, two years ago, the city received word that the Corps did not have sufficient funds to dredge recreational harbors, such as South Haven's.
And that has caused a dilemma for the city as it looks elsewhere to come up with the necessary funds to keep the channel and pier head area open to boaters.
“If the U.S. Government will no longer fund maintenance of the federal harbor, the City of South Haven will likely be required to maintain the harbor,” VandenBosch stated in a letter to the Michigan DNR. “A rough estimate of dredging needs is $250,000 every five years.”
“We will apply for any grants we can find,” VandenBosch said.
Photo by Kelly Weber
Wintery weather continues
Slippery road conditions Tuesday hampered many motorists, causing a number of slide-offs and fender benders. Icy, slippery roads continue to be an issue today throughout southwest Michigan. Many area schools, including South Haven Public Schools, were closed today due to the ice and snow. Approximately five to six inches of snow fell on the South Haven area on Tuesday.
Wood stove blamed for structure fire in Columbia Township
Fire destroyed a home in the 09000 block of 46th Street in Columbia Township early Tuesday morning.
Firefighters from Columbia Township were dispatched to the blaze at 2 a.m. and found a bedroom in the southwest corner of the home fully engulfed in fire, according to Fire Chief Dave Johnson.
“The fire had worked its way up a wall into the attic making it difficult to extinguish,” he said.
The two occupants of the home, a father and daughter, made it out of the home safely, however one firefighter fell through a second-story floor, but luckily was not injured.
The State Fire Marshal's office has determined a wood stove caused the fire. The home was considered a total loss because of the damage to the home's roof.
Firefighters from Bangor, Bloomingdale and South Haven Area Emergency Services assisted in providing water and helping to put out the blaze.
Four women die in
Four women returning home from a dinner lost their lives in a tragic three-vehicle collision, Saturday.
Celeste Phillips, 67, of Hartford; Kathryn Maya, 56 of Kalamazoo; Lou Ann Holcomb, 56, of Hartford; and Charlotte Sieber, 51, of Hartford died at the scene of the accident at County Road 687 and 66th Avenue, in Hartford Township, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's Department news release. Another person involved in the crash, Thomas Stewart, 57, of Dowagiac, was injured.
Deputies responded to the accident at 6:10 p.m. They say it occurred when a Dodge mini-van, driven by a 26-year-old Watervliet woman, was heading east on 66th Avenue. She attempted to stop at the intersection of County Road 687, but couldn't and struck a Buick Lucerne, driven by Phillips. After being struck, the Lucerne began to spin on the icy roadway directly into the path of Stewart's Chevrolet pickup truck. All of the persons involved in the accident were wearing seatbelts.
Deputies are still investigating the crash.
SH high school student arrested after threatening to bomb the school this morning
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
An 18-year-old South Haven High School student faces criminal charges after she threatened to bomb the school, this morning.
The female student, whose name is not being released pending arraignment, was arrested shortly before 9 a.m. when she turned herself in to police, according to South Haven Police Sgt. Patrick Carlotto. Police said they do not yet know what charges she will face.
“We're still determining the exact charges,” Carlotto said. “There are charges for bomb threats or it could just be disorderly person. It's still under investigation.”
The threat occurred at the start of the school day when the student went to the school office to retrieve a cell phone that a teacher had taken from her on Thursday. Students are not allowed to use cell phones while in the classroom. If they do so, teachers are instructed to take the phones away.
“It was taken away from her to pick up from the office at end of next day, that's the policy,” said South Haven Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera. “She wanted the phone at the beginning of the day.”
When the student didn't get the phone she went out in the hallway and then out the door.
“She was upset,” Carlotto said.
A teacher followed her and tried to calm her down, but in the presence of the teacher and several students the girl made the threat to bomb the school as she was walking to her car.
“When students make statements like that we have to consider everyone,” Herrera said. “We followed our safety procedures and contacted law enforcement and made sure the building was secure.”
As part of its safety procedures, the school was “locked down” for an hour until the girl was located.
“We located her and interviewed her and determined the threat was not credible, but threats are just that. You can't go into a crowded theater and yell, 'fire,'” Carlotto said.
Herrera said he is glad the incident did not escalate. “It was a non-issue, but we always fall back on the safe side,” he said.
This photo shows some of the marijuana plants that were found growing in a pole barn in Covert Township, Tuesday.
Police discover indoor marijuana grow operation in Covert Township
Police have busted another marijuana-grow operation in Covert Township – this time an indoor one.
The bust occurred Tuesday afternoon at a pole barn on 48th Avenue near 76th Street, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's news release.
Narcotics detectives seized 27 marijuana plants growing in two rooms in the barn and several Ziploc bags containing processed marijuana, weighing approximately a pound. Police also seized scales, packaging materials, $800 and a 2004 Mercedes Benz van.
Covert Police first noticed activity going on near the pole barn and reported it to the sheriff's narcotics bureau, which obtained a search warrant.
Police say three suspects may have been involved in the operation – a 51-year-old South Haven man, a 28-year-old South Haven man and a 51-year-old man from Coloma.
The bust on Tuesday was quite small compared to two other marijuana busts in Covert Township in 2012. In August, police found and destroyed nearly 1,800 plants at an outdoor grow operation in a heavily wooded area in the 78000 block of 40th Street. Two months later, they discovered a similar outdoor grow operation in a wooded area in the 78000 block of 38th Avenue and got rid of 1,700 plants.
Anyone with information about the marijuana grow operations that have been located in Covert Township can contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at (269) 657-3101, Crime Stoppers 1-800-342-7867, Silent Observer (269) 343-2100 or local police departments.
Mobile phone users and online users can provide anonymous crime tips to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office by sending a text Tip Soft message by sending a text message to “CRIMES” (274637) with the keyword VBCTIP from a mobile phone. To submit an online tip, go to www.vanburencountysheriff.com and at the top of the homepage follow the directions to submit a tip.
City in line for a $750,000 grant for downtown improvements
The City of South Haven appears to have King Midas's touch when it comes to obtaining grants.
City officials report that they've just received tentative approval for a $750,000 state grant to make improvements downtown.
The Downtown Infrastructure Community Development Block Grant funding would come from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and is targeted for the redevelopment of Phoenix Street, between Kalamazoo and Broadway streets. The total cost of the improvement plan is estimated to be $2.4 million. The Downtown Development Authority plans to provide $1.65 million for its share of the cost. This latest grant award is among more than a half dozen the city has received in the last year.
The project,slated to begin in the fall, entails replacing water, sewer and storm drainage systems, rebuilding the roadway, expanded sidewalk areas, landscaping improvements, and more green space.
“This is great news,” said South Haven Mayor Bob Burr. “Being able to complete this project will give us a chance to correct a 75-year-old water main. Rehabilitation of the water main will assist in avoiding water main breaks and therefore breaking up the street surface for repairs.”
City officials said once the project is complete, pedestrians will have more space to walk downtown.
“These expanded sidewalk areas will provide the opportunity for pedestrian gatherings, public art, urban green space, and outdoor seating near the downtown shops and restaurants,” DDA director Deb Davidson said. “The City is also planning to launch a public wireless internet system to further enhance the pedestrian experience in the downtown, and specifically within these expanded sidewalk areas. These pedestrian spaces will be located in areas which would otherwise be used for automotive purposes.”
The Phoenix Street project is a result of the public input meetings held to create the 2010 DDA Streetscape Master Plan. Projects in the plan serve as a guide for improvements. The Williams Street Improvement project and the construction of the parking lot, restrooms, and rain garden at Huron/Kalamazoo Streets are projects that have been completed from the plan.
The Michigan Strategic Fund was created by P.A. 270 of 1984 and has broad authority to promote economic development and create jobs. The MSF transfers the majority of its appropriated State funds and employees to the MEDC. In turn, the MEDC administers State economic development programs.
31 alleged Holland gang members, associates indicted on federal charges
A federal grand jury has indicted 31 alleged members and associates of the Holland Latin Kings gang for a range of offenses, including conspiring to engage in racketeering, committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, possessing firearms and conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
The grand jury alleges in the indictment that the Holland Latin Kings gang is an enterprise whose members and associates engaged in crimes of violence and drug trafficking in order to promote the gang and enrich its members while insulating themselves from law enforcement, among other things.
The charges, which were announced Tuesday, are the result of a joint federal and state investigation targeting gang violence and drug trafficking in the Holland, Michigan, area.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles was joined in the announcement of the charges by Gil Salinas, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Ronald J. Frantz, Prosecuting Attorney, Ottawa County; D/F/Lt. Mike Harvitt, Michigan State Police; Gary Rosema, Sheriff, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office; and Matt Messer, Chief of Public Safety, City of Holland Police Department.
The charges in the indictment are allegations and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, and the government has the burden of proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Transition team replaces Bangor Middle School principal
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Bangor Public School District officials are saying goodbye to a popular principal and hello to a three-person transition team that will lead Bangor Middle School students and staff through the remainder of the school year.
Board of Education members chose the trio of educators, Monday, after accepting the resignation of Principal Jim Greydanus.
Greydunus, who began his new duties Feb. 4 as principal of Fennville High School, will be hard to replace, according to Bangor Schools Superintendent Ron Parker.
“We're going to miss Jim big time,” Parker said. “He was an excellent administrator. He will still work with us in the transition.”
Greydanus had been with Bangor Schools for 17 years; first as a middle school math teacher and for 10.5 years as principal. Most recently he took on the dual role as the district's curriculum coordinator.
Despite his departure, Parker thinks the transition team will do a good job.
“I have all the confidence in the world we won't miss a beat,” Parker said regarding the team.
Dan Thorbjornsen, middle school dean of students, will take over as principal. He will be assisted by teacher Karen Bitzer as dean of students and teacher Jonathan Swegles as director of curriculum.
Swegles will continue to teach at the middle school, while a long-term substitute will take over Bitzer's middle school teaching responsibilities.
School officials have not yet decided if they will seek a permanent replacement for Greydanus.
“We don't know at this point,” Parker said.
Thorbjornsen, 53, began teaching in the Bangor school district in 1990 as a second-grade teacher. He later taught fourth grade and then served as a middle school English teacher before being named middle school dean of students five years ago. He also has been active in coaching middle school basketball teams and currently serves as an assistant football coach. He and his wife have three children.
PIC: Dan Thorbjornsen, interim Bangor Middle School principal
Bangor city council chooses interim manager
By BECKY BURKERT
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — A retired city manager with 35 years of experience as both an elected official and a paid administrator has been chosen interim manager for the City of Bangor.
Bangor City Council voted 6-0, at a special meeting Saturday, to hire Don Beavers of Mackinaw City to lead the city for the next three to six months until a full-time manager is chosen.
Beavers was chosen from four applicants, who included Kevin Gillette, Lincoln Township trustee; Regina Hoover, Bangor Township supervisor; and Richard Vandepels, a retired teacher and business owner from Bangor Township. Council members chose Beavers after conducting interviews of each candidate.
“I felt he did his homework,” said Bangor council member Lynne Farmer.
“He was the one with the most knowledge,” said council member Patti Waite.
Bangor city attorney David DiStefano will now negotiate a contract with Beavers, who asked for compensation between $30-$40. Originally the city had advertised to pay an interim manager $25 an hour, however, several council members countered that the city would still be saving money, because Beavers would make only half of what previous city manager Joe Sobieralski had been paid.
During his hour-long interview, Beavers addressed several issues the city currently is facing – a lawsuit by the Downtown Development Authority and relocation of the city's police department building.
“I think it's important to come to terms with the DDA and put that issue behind and move forward,” he said. The DDA filed a lawsuit against the city in October of 2012 alleging that city officials had misappropriated money from the DDA's budget over a five-year period of time.
Regarding the police department building, Beavers indicated that the council should look at a number of alternatives to find a suitable home for the department, which had to be relocated to the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department's satellite office in Bangor after a fire in September of 2010 damaged the police building.
Beavers also indicated that the city should build up its general fund reserves, which now stand at approximately $45,000, and develop more communication with city residents.
Beavers most recently served as village manager in Mackinaw City. Prior to that he was a city manager in Caro for four years, a village manager in Reading for two years, village manager of Constantine for five years, and served on the city council of Laingsburg for 14 years and the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners for 11 years.
Prior to earning his bachelor's degree in public administration from Western Michigan University, he worked in the private sector as a branch manager for Clinton National Bank for seven years and as a managing partner for a golf course for 21 years.
Sobieralski had served as city manager from June 2012 to the end of January. He left to become executive director of Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance, in Niles.
Blowing snow greeted area residents this morning. Wind gusts of 45-50 miles per hour by the lakeshore are expected this afternoon.
South Haven area under wind advisory until 9 p.m., tonight
By TRIBUNE STAFF
The South Haven area is under a wind advisory until 9 p.m. tonight and a hazardous weather outlook has been issued by the National Weather Service for the remainder of this week.
The strongest wind gusts, projected at 45-50 miles per hour, will occur this afternoon.
Strong wind gusts and snow, which blew sideways throughout much of the morning, greeted area motorists on their way to work this morning, and the driving conditions aren't expected to get much better as the week progresses.
Although lake-effect snow showers are expected to diminish to flurries by Tuesday afternoon, a clipper system could bring light snow to the area on Thursday, followed by much colder air Friday through Sunday.
The cold air will results in lake-effect snow showers west of US-131 from Thursday night into Sunday. Area residents, especially those north of South Haven, can expect significant snow accumulations, according to the National Weather Service.
In the meantime, area residents are being warned about possible conditions that could result from today's snow and high winds:
• Motorists will feel effects from the wind, especially on north-south roadways. The strong winds could make driving difficult.
• Strong winds could prompt snow and ice hanging from roofs to break free and fall.
• As temperatures fall to below freezing early this evening, untreated road surfaces will likely freeze, causing icy roads and slippery sidewalks.
• An ice jam threat on rivers continues today. Fluctuations in river levels are possible as runoff from the melting snow and rain interacts with ice jams.
Another state legislator tries to shore up funds for harbor dredging
Another state legislator from Southwest Michigan has introduced a bill to help lakeshore communities make improvements to their harbors.
State Rep. Al Pscholka, today, introduced House Bill 4179, which would add dredging to the list of acceptable infrastructure improvements for Tax Increment Finance Authorities (TIFAs). His bill comes on the heel of one filed last week by State Rep. Bob Genetski to allow municipalities to apply for grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for dredging projects.
"Outdated government regulations are costing our community jobs and making life more difficult for the people of Southwest Michigan," said Pscholka, R-Stevensville. "This is a common-sense change that allows some of the tax revenue from businesses in and around harbors to be used on necessary maintenance that will keep them up and running. We need to give local governments this option so boaters can gain access to the water and our local small businesses can make ends meet."
Recreational boaters and boating activities generate billions of dollars in economic activity every year in Michigan, supporting more than 51,000 jobs statewide. Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1918, according to a recent Associated Press report.
"Michigan's economy has started to turn the corner, and people are telling me they see things getting better around every day," Pscholka said. "But the low water levels could threaten to hold us back and make life harder for so many people in this community. The hard-working Michigan families who rely on the tourism industry need our support."
HB 4179 was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Area county fairgrounds awarded state grants
By TRIBUNE STAFF
Fairgrounds in Allegan and Van Buren counties are in line to receive $25,000 from a state grant program to help pay for utility upgrades.
The Allegan County Agricultural Society, which operates the fairgrounds in Allegan, will receive a $20,000 state grant for its campground improvement project, while Van Buren County Fair Board will get $5,400 to upgrade the Hartford fairground's electrical service.
The grants are being made possible through the state's new County Fairs Capital Improvement Program.
The project at the Allegan County Fairgrounds will cost $51,000 and includes improvements to the northwest campground's electrical and water services, according to state Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck. The fair board is expected to pay the additional money to fund the project.
“The fairgrounds and county fair are a great tourism resource for Allegan County, and these utility upgrades will enhance the annual event and perhaps expand other opportunities for the agricultural society at the campground,” Genetski said.
In Van Buren County, the fair board will use its grant to make nearly $12,000 in improvements to the fairground's electrical system.
"Family farmers are a key element of Southwest Michigan's economy, and getting youth involved in farming early will help teach life skills and personal responsibility," said State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton. "The upgrades made possible by the grant will enable the fairgrounds to continue serving future farmers of Van Buren County and help our local economy."
Funds for the state's new county fair improvement program come from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The state agency awarded grants between $1,000 and $20,000 for 20 improvement projects throughout Michigan. All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match by the local fair.
This carving of a Steelhead coming out of the water was created by members of the Michiana Ice Carvers Association during Ice Breaker. The 600-pound block of ice was sponsored by the South Haven Area Chamber of Commerce.
Ice Breaker award winners announced
HawksHead Restaurant walked off with the Chili Con Carne award at the Ice Breaker festival this past weekend.
The restaurant competed with 24 other entries in the professional chili cook-off to take top honors in the contest, which attracted the most participants ever in the festival's 20-year history.
HawksHead's sister restaurant, Clementine's Saloon, came in second, while the American Legion's entry placed third.
Other contest results from the three-day Ice Breaker follow:
Amateur Chili Cook-off:
South Beach Cookers, $200 cash award
Winner Two “B”, $100 cash award
Chili Willies, $50 cash award
Ice Sculpture contest, student division
Bangor Schools (location, Elks Lodge), Crystal Star trophy
Bangor Schools (location, Links Mortgage), Crystal Star trophy
Bangor Schools (location, Rambling Rose), Crystal Star trophy
Ice Sculpture contest, amateur division
Natalie Militello, Brad McKenzie and Travis Wilkinson (location, Thirsty Perch), $100 cash
Patrick McKearnan (location, MacDonald Drug Store), $75 cash
Al Ruppert (location, Clementine’s) $50 cash
Ice Sculpture contest, professional division
Michiana Ice Carving Association (location, Joe's Bar), trophy
Michiana Ice Carving Association (location, South Haven ice skating rink, sponsor Lawn Boys), trophy
Joel Gesiakowski (location, Channel Wine Bar), trophy
Ice Sculpture contest, Miss South Haven Queen's Cup award
Natalie Militello, Brad McKenzie and Travis Wilkinson, (location, Thirsty Perch)
February brings higher gas prices to South Haven area
Sticker shock is once again causing motorist's eyes to widen at the gas pump.
Prices for a gallon of unleaded fuel range from $3.69-$3.75 in the South Haven area today, which is about 45 cents higher than a month ago, according to GasBuddy.com
Retail gasoline prices in Michigan rose 20.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.68 on Sunday, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 4,913 gas outlets in Michigan. This compares with the national average that has increased 14.4 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.48 per gallon, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com.
"The national average has ticked higher in the last week, as rising oil prices have put upward pressure on gasoline prices," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Unfortunately for angry motorists, there doesn't seem to be much relief in sight, at least for the time being, as retail prices continue to climb in virtually all areas of the country," DeHaan said.
GasBuddy operates MichiganGasPrices.com and over 250 similar websites that track gasoline prices at over 140,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada. In addition, GasBuddy offers a free smartphone app which has been downloaded over 25 million times to help motorists find the lowest gasoline prices in their area.
12-year-old girl injured in snowmobile accident
A teen-ager from Breedsville found out Sunday afternoon that using a snowmobile to tow a passenger on a sled is not a good idea.
Van Buren County Sheriff's Department report that the 15-year-old male driver of the snowmobile was using an eight-foot rope to tow a 12-year-old girl on a sled in the yard of a private residence in Breedsville. Everything seemed fine until the snowmobile made a turn causing the plastic sled behind it to veer and crash into a tree.
The girl, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered head and leg injuries and was taken to South Haven Community Hospital by her mother. She was listed in good condition as of today and is expected to be released.
The driver of the snowmobile was wearing a helmet. Neither excessive speed nor alcohol were found to be factors in this crash. Because the accident occurred on private property, no charges will be filed.
Police step up drunk-driving patrols for Super Bowl weekend
'Fans don't let fans drive drunk'
Motorists are being reminded by police agencies to make the right call by designating a sober driver before kick off if their Super Bowl celebration includes alcohol. Those who choose to drive drunk after watching the big game on Sunday could face serious penalties as nearly 70 law enforcement agencies are participating in a drunk driving crackdown that starts tomorrow.
Law enforcement officers in 20 counties – including Allegan and Van Buren — will work extra enforcement targeting impaired drivers Friday-Sunday. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) is coordinating the effort which is supported by federal traffic safety funds. Agencies in the other counties that are participating in the drunk driving patrols follow: Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Genesee, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.
“If you are caught driving drunk, you will be arrested,” said OHSP Director Michael L. Prince. “Michigan law enforcement officers don’t play games when it comes to drunk drivers so make the right call and pass the keys to a sober driver.”
Last year on Super Bowl Sunday, 166 people were arrested in Michigan for drunk driving, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center. Fifty-two of those arrested had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher. Two people died in traffic crashes that day and both crashes involved alcohol.
Some tips for hosting a Super Bowl party:
In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer feels they are impaired. As of Oct. 31, 2010, motorists face enhanced penalties for a first-time conviction with a .17 BAC or higher.
South Haven area residents affected by power outages
Multiple electrical power outages Wednesday evening and this morning affected many South Haven electric customers.
City officials report that two-thirds of the city's service area experienced the outages, which first began at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and continued throughout the evening and into this morning.
The multiple incidents created havoc for a number of businesses, which had to reset their computer cash registers each time power was restored. Because of the uncertainty of when outages the outages would stop, South Haven Public Schools and St. Basil School called off classes, giving students a vacation day.
“The cause of the outages is from the main line from our service provider, Indiana Michigan Power (AEP),” South Haven spokesperson Deb Davidson said. “Affected was AEP's 69 Kva main line which feeds the City of South Haven's Phoenix Road substation and main substation.”
It is not yet known if the problem was related to the windy, snowy weather. AEP is investigating the incidents.
More snow, low temperatures coming to the South Haven area
Last week's snow may have melted with Tuesday's 55-degree weather, but more of the white stuff is on the way.
The National Weather Service predicts that between six to 12 inches of now will fall on the South Haven area starting tonight and continuing through Friday.
The projected weather conditions have prompted the weather service to issue a lake effect snow watch tonight through Friday afternoon. Snow could be heavy at times and wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour will diminish visibility to a quarter-of-a-mile or less in the areas with the heaviest snowfall.
Motorists are being advised to be extra cautious on roadways.
The latest snow advisory comes on the heels of a flood warning that resulted from the warm temperatures Southwest Michigan experienced earlier this week. Rising water levels on smaller streams and rivers will continue to pose a flooding threat today and tonight, the National Weather Service warns. As temperatures drop this afternoon to below freezing, icy conditions could develop quickly on area roadways. Then, snow is expected to fall by early evening.
Two inches of snow could fall tonight and will accumulate on ice that forms on roadways, resulting in slippery conditions for motorists. Gusting winds will produce near-zero visibilities at times tonight.
Here is a National Weather Service forecast for the South Haven area, today through Saturday:
Coming out of the fog
Ice thawing on Lake Michigan combined with an unseasonably 55-degree temperature caused fog to roll in near the South Haven pierheads and lighthouse this afternoon. (Photo by Becky Kark)
County road commission warns motorists about flooded roadways
Heavy rains from early today coupled with 55-degree temperatures has prompted a warning from the Van Buren County Road Commission: Be careful when driving.
“Rising temperatures and heavy rain has caused a rapid thaw of the snow and ice that built up during last week’s snow events causing flooding on many roadways throughout Van Buren County,” said Lawrence Hummel, road commission engineer-manager.
"When the ground is frozen and becomes saturated from rainstorms, water and ice can rapidly accumulate on roadways making driving conditions difficult, to say the least," he went on to say.
Since 4 a.m., road commission workers have been placing flood warning signs on a number of county roads, however, Hummel cautioned, all flooded areas may not be marked.
Some roadways, especially during nighttime hours, can become treacherous if drivers do not use caution and drive slowly.
“When roads are closed due to water over the road, do not ignore these important signs”, said Hummel.
Conditions could become worse over the next day as temperatures are expected to fall into the 20s and water re-freezes.
Road crews will be monitoring county roads over the next several days in an effort to ensure safety for drivers.
Genetski: Low water, no dredging threaten boating industry, economy
While private marina operators and the Michigan Maritime Museum plan to dredge their marinas before the 2013 boating season gets underway, the City of South Haven may be able to find funds to pay for dredging of its own marinas and boat docks. State Rep. Bob Genetski has introduced legislation that would help pay for local dredging projects in recreational harbors, such as South Haven's.
The Saugatuck Republican has introduced House Bill 4106 to allow local authorities to apply for grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for local dredging projects on the Great Lakes. Currently, dredging projects cannot be paid for out of the fund.
“It’s well-known that all around Michigan the water levels are drastically low - many harbors were already struggling last boating season,” Genetski said.
A report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District indicates that the mean water level in Lake Michigan-Huron in December was 576.15 feet, three inches lower than November's level. To make matters worse, the two lakes set a new record low-water level for the month of December. The previous record low for December was set in 1964 at 576.18 feet. The Corps also predicts that the lake water levels will be 8-18 inches below chart datum over the next six months.
“If the harbors aren’t dredged this year, boats cannot get into them, and tourism on our Great Lakes and in our coastal communities is going to be down, costing the state a lot of money in tourism dollars. That summer water traffic is vital for local jobs and Michigan’s overall economy, so as a state we can’t afford to not take action.”
Michigan has nearly 1 million registered boats, leading to $4 billion in economic activity and 34,000 jobs - in the Great Lakes region, those numbers swell to $34 billion and 244,000 jobs, according to information from Genetski's office.
Pot-growing operation found in Arlington Township
Police dismantled a marijuana growing operating in Arlington Township, Thursday morning.
The operation, in the 55000 block of 32nd Avenue, was discovered by the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office Narcotics unit after they received a tip from Berrien County Sheriff's office that a pot-growing operation may exist in the Bangor area.
Berrien detectives had recently dismantled a large indoor marijuana grow operation in their county and believed that additional individuals believed to be involved in that venture lived in the Bangor area.
Based on that information, Van Buren detectives obtained a search warrant for the Arlington Township residence and found four marijuana grow operations in the residence and a garage. They seized 81 marijuana plants, several pounds of finished marijuana, two long guns, scales, packaging materials and $800.
There are three suspects — a 24-year-old man, who resides in both Chicago, Ill. and Bangor, and two other Chicago men, ages 36 and 23. No arrests were made. Detectives from both counties and agents from the FBI are continuing the investigation.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at (269) 657-3101, Crime Stoppers 1-800-342-7867, Silent Observer (269) 343-2100 or your local Police Department.
Bangor begins hunt for new city manager
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — As City Manager Joe Sobieralski departs for a new job at the end of January, city council members are beginning to look for a candidate to replace him.
Until they can find a suitable replacement, however, council members voted this week to hire a part-time interim manager through the Michigan Municipal League. They hope to have one in place within a week or so.
“The municipal league has a list of people we can reach out to,” Sobieralski said. “Council wants to go with an interim manager who has experience.”
As of Tuesday, one interim candidate had shown interest. City officials expect to hear from several others before making a recommendation.
The interim manager would most likely work two to three days a week for a period of three to six months to give council time to find a full-time city manager.
Sobieralski's last day is Jan. 31. He then will leave to become executive director of the Southwestern Economic Growth Alliance in Niles, Feb. 4.
Council hired Sobieralski in June of 2012. His contract called for a 30-day notice if he chose to find employment elsewhere. On Jan. 1 Sobieralski issued a brief resignation letter to the council.
In the past seven months that Sobieralski served as city manager, he's dealt with several controversial issues, including a lawsuit from the Downtown Development Authority.
But Sobieralski said he is not leaving his post because of the lawsuit filed by the DDA. “(The job opportunity) came about recently,” he said. “Their executive director left in November and they called and asked if I'd be interested,” he said.
Sobieralski is no stranger to the alliance that works with 11 municipalities to promote economic growth in southern Berrien County.
“I started there as an intern and that turned into project manager,” he said. “I'm from Niles so it's kind of like coming home.”
Ol' Man Winter arrives, bringing chilly weather, school closures and accidents
“Drive slowly and be patient, it's winter.”
Lt. Frank Baker of the Allegan County Sheriff's Department hope motorists will heed his advice.
In the past two days, Allegan deputies have handled 32 weather-related calls for crashes, vehicles in ditches and motorist assists.
“Several accidents involved semi-trucks resulting in the temporary closing of I-196 on two occasions,” Baker said. “A deputy and state trooper were nearly struck when a semi lost control passing through an existing crash scene.”
Closer to home, South Haven Police reported four to five weather-related accidents Monday, none of them serious.
Several school districts are closed today due to the snow and wind, including South Haven, Bangor and Bloomingdale. Others are canceling evening and athletic events, including South Haven.
A lake effect snow advisory is in effect throughout much of southwest Michigan until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Between now and Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service predicts that 6-8 inches will fall on the South Haven area. Inland areas and Allegan County residents could experience several more inches of snowfall than South Haven residents. Most of the snow is expected to fall this afternoon and this evening.
Temperatures will hover at 10-12 degrees today with wind chills as low as -6 degree. The temperature could increase to 22 degrees by Wednesday.
The staff of Woodhams Ford Lincoln is shown donating a check for $7,000 to South Haven High Schools athletic, band and choral programs. Ross Woodhams (second from left) is shown donating a check to Athletic Director Dave Gumpert, (left) and band director Jeff Bopp (standing to the right of Woodhams).
Car dealership donates $7,000 to South Haven High School
Thanks to a unique fundraiser by a South Haven vehicle dealership, South Haven High School has an extra $7,000 for student programs.
This past fall Woodhams Ford Lincoln hosted the Ford Motor Company's Drive 4UR School event. For each vehicle that area residents test drove, Woodhams donated up to $30. More than 450 test drives took place during the event. Woodhams recently submitted the $7,000 check to South Haven High School. The Athletic Boosters will receive $3,000, the Instrumental Music Boosters $3,000 and the Choir Boosters, $1,000.
This was the third Drive 4UR School events that Woodhams and Ford Motor Company has held in South Haven, raising $20,000 for the high school.
Nationwide, Drive 4UR School has helped communities all over the United States to add resources for students and teachers. More than $16 million has been contributed since the Drive 4UR school program began in 2007.
Survey work to interrupt South Haven motorists
By ANDREW LERSTEN
H-P South Haven Bureau
Expect traffic disruptions in downtown South Haven over the next few weeks.
Starting today, survey crews will be working in preparation for a possible $2.4 million Phoenix Street improvement project planned for fall.
The work includes drilling soil borings in the street, taking photos, taking survey measurements, opening manhole covers and marking the locations of underground utilities using paint on the street and the sidewalks, city offi cials said.
“It will probably be ongoing for several weeks – maybe a month,” city senior civil engineer Steve Oosting said.
Traffic may be down to one lane at times, with flag operators used, he said.
“We didn’t want to do this in July (tourist season)” Oosting said. “This is the best time of year to be doing this kind of work downtown.”
City officials expect to hear next month whether the city will get a $750,000 Michigan Economic Development Corp. grant to help fund the fall project.
Plans call for the 8-inch Phoenix water main to be replaced with a 12-inch main to increase the water flow for area fire protection.
There would also be storm sewer work, some sanitary sewer work, landscaping, a new traffic light at the corner of Phoenix and Broadway, expansion of downtown wi-fi service, and the extension of the bicycle lane on Broadway north from Phoenix.
The project is tentatively scheduled to begin Oct. 1 and be completed before the Memorial Day weekend next year.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies recovered this stolen 1957 Chevy after two men towed it from a residence in Geneva Township, Wednesday. The car, which is inoperable, is valued at approximately $1,000.
Trail of car parts leads deputies to suspects
Two Bangor men found out the hard way that leaving a trail of stolen goods often leads to an arrest.
A neighbor saw the two men tow an antique car from a home in the 16000 block of 60th Street in Geneva Township on Wednesday and promptly called police.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies responded and didn't have a hard time tracing the whereabouts of the tow truck and antique 1957 Chevy.
The antique vehicle's rims were making marks on the roadway where the car was being towed. Debris from the Chevy was also littering the roadway Deputies soon found the vehicle still attached to the tow truck at a home in the 13000 block of 64th Street. They talked to the tow truck driver and the other man.
Both admitted they had taken the vehicle without permission.
The 40-year-old tow truck operator was cited for no vehicle insurance, spilling debris on a roadway and having no information regarding his truck. Larceny charges are being sought against the 53-year-old Bangor man, who was involved in the theft.
Photo by Becky Kark
Emergency worker and police remove boxes that were contained in a Little Debbie truck that was involved in a fatal collision this morning on County Road 388.
Bangor man dies in fatal collision in South Haven Township
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A Bangor Township man died this morning and a woman was injured in a traffic crash that occurred at the intersection of County Road 388 and 71-1/2 Street in South Haven Township.
South Haven Police report that the fatality occurred at 7:14 a.m.
A witness to the accident, Shawn Weldon of South Haven, said a Little Debbie truck, driven by Steve Efting, was headed east on County Road 388 when his vehicle collided with a mini-van. The woman, who was driving the mini-van, was headed south on 71-1/2 Street when her vehicle failed to stop.
“I was taking my daughter to school and was west on County Road 388. I saw the van and slowed down because it didn't look like she was going to stop,” Weldon said. “Then I slowed down more. I thought she might miss the truck but then she slammed into it and they both tumbled off the road.”
Weldon stopped his vehicle and pulled the woman from her van.
“I got her out because I smelled gasoline. I had blood all over me. I didn't even realize it at first,” he said. Weldon leaned the woman against his vehicle and asked his 14-year-old daughter to watch over the woman. He then tried to pry open the truck's door when police arrived.
The impact of the collision caused Efting's truck to turn over onto its side where the driver's side was crushed and the top of the truck's cargo area ripped off, spilling boxes of Little Debbie snacks onto the grass.
A preliminary investigation indicates that Efting may not have been wearing his seatbelt. When police found him he was half in and half out of the truck, according to Sgt. Kyle Griffith of the South Haven Police Department. Efting was pronounced dead at the scene.
The woman, whose name has not been released yet, was not able to give police an explanation as to why she ran the stop sign, according to Griffith. She was taken to South Haven Health System with non-life-threatening injuries. Police plan to send a report to the Van Buren County prosecutor's office for review.
This is the second accident that has occurred at the intersection of County Road 388 and 71-1/2 Street. Ironically, the intersection was widened and turn lanes constructed in 2012 to make it safer.
“They try to make it more safe and people just end up going faster,” remarked one bystander at the accident scene.
More than 100 drunk drivers arrested during New Year’s crackdown
Law enforcement agencies in 22 counties arrested 103 drunk drivers during a drunk driving crackdown Dec. 27-Jan. 1. This includes 30 drivers arrested for a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .17 or higher under Michigan’s High BAC Law.
More than 100 law enforcement agencies in Allegan, Berrien, Calhoun, Chippewa, Delta, Genesee, Houghton, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Macomb, Marquette, Monroe, Oakland, Ogemaw, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne counties participated in the crackdown.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) coordinated the effort which was supported by federal traffic safety funds.
“Michigan law enforcement officers are experts at finding and arresting drunk drivers,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “More than 100 motorists found this out when they made the poor decision to drive drunk over the holidays and are now dealing with the consequences.”
Officers made 3,106 traffic stops during which they issued 18 seat belt and child restraint citations, 209 speeding tickets and 606 tickets for other traffic violations. In addition, 50 fugitives were arrested and 156 uninsured motorists were cited.
A breakdown of Allegan County sheriff's department complaints follows: 41 vehicles stopped, 30 verbal warnings issued, 8 speeding tickets issued, 1 citation for driving with a suspended license, 1 uninsured motorist, 2 drug-related arrests, 1 misdemeanor arrest, a fugitive arrest.
A breakdown of Van Buren County sheriff's department complaints follows: 27 vehicles stopped, 19 verbal warnings issued, 1 ticket for running a red light; 3 citations for driving with a suspended license, 5 uninsured motorist citations, 1 arrest for operating while intoxicated, 1 operating under the influence of liquor arrest; 1 fugitive arrest, 1 felony warrant arrest, 6 misdemeanor arrests, 13 other traffic violations.
Preliminary reports indicate 12 people died in traffic crashes over the New Year’s holiday in Michigan, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center. Half of the deaths involved alcohol and four of the people who died were unbuckled. This is a decrease from last year’s New Year’s holiday period when 14 people were killed in traffic crashes and five of those crashes involved alcohol.
Photo by Becky Kark
Two Columbia Township firefighters investigate a fire that occurred, Saturday, at the home of Billy and Alice Broadbent, in the 11000 block of 50th Street.
Grand Junction postal carrier credited with saving couple from burning home
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
GRAND JUNCTION — Quick actions by a Grand Junction postal carrier and the Columbia Township Fire Chief helped save the life of a Columbia Township couple, Saturday.
Ricki Gillan was on her way to work Saturday morning shortly before 8 a.m. when she noticed fire coming from a home in the 11000 block of 50th Avenue.
The homeowners, Billy and Alice Broadbent were asleep inside the home, along with their five dogs.
“(She) spotted the fire. If it weren't for her, I doubt they ever would have made it out alive,” said Columbia Township Fire Chief Dave Johnson, who plans to honor Gillan with a citation Tuesday evening at the Columbia Township Board of Trustees meeting.
Alice also appreciated Gillan's actions. “She stopped and honked her horn and started screaming 'fire, fire,'” Alice recalled. “We jumped up.”
Gillan's words, “fire, fire” and her pounding on the doors and windows of the home, also woke up neighbor Kelly Matthes.
“I walked over and saw the house on fire and told my girlfriend to call 911,” Matthes said.
By that time, Alice and her husband were running from the home. “We had five dogs in the house. They all got out. I had two of the dogs under each arm,” Alice said. “My husband was grabbing pots of water and trying to put the fire out.”
But when Johnson arrived to the home just ahead of the fire department crew, he didn't like what was happening.
Billy had gone back inside the home and had not come out.
“He was trying to save our things,” Alice said.
In doing so, however, Billy almost lost his life.
“A blast or something blew him backward and he injured his neck and his his head,” Alice said. “The fire chief had to drag him out of there.”
Billy ended up with second-degree burns on his back, a fractured bone near the back of his neck, and a cut on his head that required seven stitches.
“When I saw his back it was cracked and peeling (from the burns),” Johnson said.
Billy was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo and placed in the burn unit, but luckily he is expected home Tuesday, Alice said.
The fire, which is believed to have started from the wood-burning stove, burned the north wall of the 1-1/2 story home and part of the upstairs, but firefighters were able to contain most of the blaze. It took firefighters from Columbia, South Haven, Bangor and Bloomingdale about an hour to extinguish the fire.
“There was minimal damage to the home,” Johnson said.
Unfortunately, however, the home is uninsured.
Johnson said Columbia Township firefighters plan to raise funds to help the Broadbents with expenses.
Area residents who are interested in contributing donations can call the fire department, 269-434-6266.
Homeowner injured in fire
A Columbia Township resident had to be taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital this past weekend after being pulled from his burning home.
The fire was reported to Columbia Township fire department at 7:48 a.m., Saturday, in the 11000 block of 50th Street.
A Grand Junction mail carrier, Ricki Gillan, spotted the fire on her way to work and pounded on the windows and doors until she awakened the home occupants, according to fire chief Dave Johnson.
When Johnson arrived at the scene he had to go into the home to pull out the homeowner who had returned inside to retrieve belongings. The homeowner, whose name has not been released yet, was then taken to Bronson. His condition is not known at this time. No other injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The blaze took about an hour to extinguish. Aid came from Bangor, South Haven and Bloomingdale fire departments.
This is the award-winning photo that Robert DeGrandchamp shot at the family-owned cranberry farm in South Haven Township.
South Haven cranberry grower turns photographer
A South Haven Township farmer tried his hand at photography recently and is now being honored for his work.
One of Robert DeGrandchamp's photographs is among 25 images chosen in the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2012 photo contest. His photo depicts a cranberry harvest at DeGrandchamp Farms, 76241 14th Ave., in South Haven Township.
Conducted in coordination with the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, the annual contest chooses images in five categories that accurately portray farm families and the work they do: Safety & Health, At Work on the Farm or Ranch, At Home on the Farm or Ranch, Consumer Outreach, and My Scenic Farm or Ranch.
DeGrandchamp's entry took third place in the At Work on the Farm or Ranch category, and will be highlighted at the AFBF's 94th Convention and Annual Meeting next week in Nashville, Tenn.
The complete list of winners and their photos can be viewed at AFBF's Voice of Agriculture website.
Don't expect tax returns before February
Area residents who want an early tax refund, will have to wait. Following the January tax law changes made by Congress under the American Tax Payer Relief Act (ATRA), the Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will delay the tax filing season until Jan. 30.
"This is the second time the IRS has pushed out the date when it will accept tax returns," said Vera Tanier, Executive Director of Van Buren County United Way and County Coordinator for the Van Buren County Tax Coalition. "Now that Congress has made its decisions, the IRS has to make all the changes to their software and printed materials. That takes time."
The Jan. 30 date may not be the final word from the IRS. "I would not be surprised to see that date push out again," said Tanier. "We anticipate that our VITA tax sites may not be able to open until mid-late February."
Under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Van Burn County residents with a household income of $49,000 or less and who do not operate a business, are eligible to have their taxes prepared for free by IRS-certified volunteers.
Last year, VITA volunteers served more than 10,000 hours and brought back more than $2.1 million in refunds to Van Buren County residents.
"While we are preparing and making tentative plans, at this time we cannot set a firm schedule for our tax sites," said Tanier, "Tax preparation locations and times will be announced as more information becomes available."
For more information, contact Van Buren County United Way, 269/657-2410.
Photo by Kelly Weber
Slippery start to the day
Black ice is being blamed for several traffic accidents that occurred east of South Haven this morning. Two of the accidents occurred on M-43 Highway, while there were several cars that slid into ditches on County Road 388 near 62nd Street in Geneva Township. In the photo above, emergency units respond to the accident that took place around 8 a.m. on M-43, just west of the Bangor city limits. A westbound vehicle was coming around a curve when the driver lost control and slid into the path of an oncoming, eastbound vehicle, according to Sgt. Kym McNally of the Michigan State Police post in Paw Paw. One of the accident victims had to be extricated from a vehicle. Four people suffered minor injuries in the accident. Three were taken to South Haven Health System and another one was transported to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. No further information was available on the other accident in Bangor. That accident was handled through Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Photo courtesy of Gov. Rick Snyder's office
Gov. Rick Snyder is shown signing legislation that will make it illegal for inexperienced motorists to use cellphones while driving in Michigan.
New law bans cellphone use for teen drivers
Teenagers will need to think twice before talking on their cellphones while driving.
Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a law that bans cellphone use for inexperienced motorists driving on a level 1 or level 2 graduated driver license in Michigan.
The new law, signed on Tuesday, is named in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, 17, of Sault Ste. Marie, who died tragically in a cellphone-related automobile crash in 2010.
"This law means a lot to me, both as governor and as a parent of a young person who is learning to drive," Snyder said in a prepared statement. "I appreciate the efforts of Kelsey's mother, Bonnie, and family who have worked tirelessly to get the message out about the dangers of distracted driving. We should be doing everything we can to make sure beginning drivers are focused on learning how to drive. I believe this law will help them gain that experience while reinforcing their responsibilities behind the wheel."
The new law allows for primary enforcement by police, though in most cases it will be enforced after the detection of another moving violation. A violation of the law will result in a civil infraction to be determined by the local jurisdiction. No points will be assigned to the driver's record and drivers will not be punished for using a vehicle's integrated hands-free phone system or for using cell phones to report an emergency.
Cell phones and other distractions exacerbate a young driver's inexperience and lead to more traffic crashes, which are the No. 1 killer of teens, according to the governor's office.
Michigan adopted a statewide ban on texting-while-driving in 2010.
SB 756 is now Public Act 592 of 2012 and will take effect in late March.
For more detailed information on legislation, visit www.michiganlegislature.org.
Photo by Kelly Weber
Dakota Trinka waves to the crowd after being crowned Miss South Haven 2013, Sunday, Jan. 6.
Miss South Haven chosen for 2013
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Dakota Trinka may have been the shortest contestant on stage, but she walked away with the most awards during the Miss South Haven pageant, Sunday. Not only was she crowned Miss South Haven 2013, she also earned the title of Miss Entrepreneur, and was named Most Photogenic and the People's Choice winner.
Trinka, a 17-year-old senior at South Haven High School, is the daughter of Dave and Davie Trinka of South Haven. For the pageant she wore a silver and blue sequin gown. At school she is a member of the National Honor Society and holds a 4.16 grade point average. She is dual-enrolled at Lake Michigan College and is currently working on an anti-bullying campaign at the high school. She served as vice-president of the History Club and is active in soccer. After graduation she plans to enroll at Kalamazoo College to pursue a law degree.
Hannah Lyon was crowned first runner-up. The daughter of Alan and Jeanne Lyon of South Haven, she is a 17-year-old senior at South Haven High School. Lyon wore an aqua gown for the pageant. Busy at school, Lyon has served for four years on the student council and is president this year. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, vice-president of the Youth Advisory Committee, a member of the Science Olympiad team and has been involved with Model United Nations. She holds a 4.0 grade point average and volunteers for a number of causes in the community. Dual-enrolled at Lake Michigan College she plans to attend Michigan State University to pursue a major in hospitality management.
Holly Gallagher earned the title of second runner-up. An 18-year-old senior at South Haven High School, she is the daughter of Cass and Carol Gallagher of South Haven. For the pageant, Gallagher wore a white gown, accented with sequins. At school, Gallagher has been the football team manager for four years and is now the wrestling team manager. She took part in several high school plays and is a senator for the senior class. Dual-enrolled at Lake Michigan College, Gallagher also has volunteered as a sixth-grade camp counselor and the Gus Macker basketball tournament. She plans to attend a four-year university to major in criminal justice.
Several other contestants earned titles, as well, in the pageant. Tifani Hosier was named Miss Congeniality and Marissa Ross was named a pageant finalist.
This year's pageant was organized by co-chairs Hillary Fischer and her daughter Lindsay Fischer. Lindsay was Miss South Haven 2010. They chose the theme, “Million Dollar Baby,” in keeping with the Miss Blossomtime theme, “A Night at the Movies.”
Shelly Hartmann served as emcee. She is co-owner of True Blue Farms in Grand Junction and the Blueberry Store in South Haven.
The judges for the pageant included Jamie Quigno, who is employed at Michigan Works and was a former Miss Blossomtime; Troy Robertson, a Western Michigan University student, who is captain of WMU's cheerleading team, and a former Mr. Three Oaks; and Magan Sherer, human resources administrator at Graphic Packaging International in Kalamazoo, who has been involved in community pageants since 2000.
First baby of the new year
South Haven Health System’s first baby born of 2013 was born on Thursday, Jan. 3. Omar Antonio Verdin, Jr. was born to parents Omar Antonio Verdin and Alejandra Martinez Soto of Paw Paw. The baby weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and measured 19 ¾ inches.
19 people die in traffic accidents during the holiday season
Preliminary reports indicate 10 people died in traffic crashes over the New Year's holiday in Michigan; another nine people died over the Christmas holiday, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.
For New Year's, half of the deaths involved alcohol; five of the nine Christmas deaths were alcohol related. For the New Year's holiday, four of the people who died were unbuckled; over Christmas, three were unbuckled.
"The importance of buckling up and driving sober can never be stressed enough," said Kathy Farnum, senior section chief of the Office of Highway Safety Planning.
Although it is early to make comparisons, last year 14 people died over the four-day New Year's holiday period and eight died over the four-day Christmas holiday period.
The New Year's holiday period began at 6 p.m. Dec. 28 and went through midnight Jan. 1. The Christmas holiday period began at 6 p.m. Dec. 21 and went through midnight Dec. 25.
Upton votes in favor of tax relief bill
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton joined 256 other House of Representative members in voting for a bill to halt the federal government from going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The bill, which extends tax relief for many middle and lower-income taxpayers, was approved by the House, Tuesday, 257-167.
“Last night, the House passed a plan to permanently extend tax relief for Southwest Michigan families and small businesses and to stop our government from going over the ‘fiscal cliff,’” Upton stated in a news release. “This plan is not the one I would have written, but I would not sit idly by and watch taxes go up on every American, impacting the average Southwest Michigan family to the tune of thousands of dollars.”
The plan locks into place current tax rates for middle class families. It holds down the estate tax for farmers and small business owners. It permanently fixes the alternative minimum tax (AMT). It provides assurance to agriculture community by extending the existing farm bill for one year and it stops the President from giving members of Congress a pay increase.
“This deal is an important first step to protect middle class families and small businesses from higher taxes,” Upton said.
But he hinted that Congress will still be working on measures to cut the federal deficit.
“Our work will not be complete until we tackle the driver of our debt – spending. Folks are looking for bipartisan solutions and concrete action to right the ship on spending. Every single day, families in Michigan and across America must make tough decisions to balance their checkbooks, pay the bills, and make ends meet, and they expect the same out of their government. We must continue working toward a more sound fiscal future to ensure the next generation has the same opportunities that we do today.”
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