Town evacuates after gas leak
MANCELONA -- Sue Blackmore's plans changed quickly.
She usually opens The Pizza Shoppe in Mancelona around 11 a.m., but firefighters had a different idea Thursday. She'd have to evacuate immediately due to a major natural gas leak.
A construction contractor boring into the ground near 205 W. Main St. separated a 2-inch gas main from a 6-inch main at about 10:45 a.m., DTE Energy spokesman John Austerberry said.
The 6-inch main leaked gas into the surrounding area for much of the day.
Mancelona Middle School and most downtown businesses were completely evacuated.
Village President Bob Wilcox said Cadillac-based Meyer Construction was working on a downtown sewer project, though he wasn't sure the company was responsible for the mishap.
Residents react to teen suicides
ELK RAPIDS -- Gayle Bohl is ready to take action after two student suicides in less than a month.
The Elk Rapids district is reeling from the loss of two students who apparently took their own lives. One, a junior, died Wednesday, and followed a high school senior's death on Oct. 17. Additionally, a recent traffic crash claimed the lives of senior Nichole Ridgeway, 17, and 2005 graduate Andrew Bussa, 20, compounding the district's grief.
Two millages approved, one defeated
In a 3,192 to 927 vote, Benzie County voters approved .66 mills for five years for operating the Commission on Aging. The millage previously was approved by voters in 2002. County voters also approved a five-year renewal of 1 mill for operating the county medical facility, The Maples, by a margin of 3,285 to 856, a millage also approved by voters in 2002. In a 2,094 to 2,023 tally, voters rejected a six-year, .75 mill levy to improve, repair and maintain existing local roads within townships in the county.
Vondra, Cummings win commission seats
With 373 votes, incumbent Charles Vondra was re-elected to a four-year seat on the Boyne City Commission, where he will be joined by challenger Michael Cummings, who had 297 votes. They beat out incumbent Jerry Douglas, who finished with 94 votes.
Property tax hike wins by 13 votes
Richard Sangster received 300 votes as the lone candidate for the Cheboygan City Council for a partial term ending in 2010. City voters also approved a property tax increase request by 13 votes, with a final tally of 185 to 172. City officials may now increase property tax rates by 1.0218 mills, or $1.0218 for every $1,000 of taxable value. That allows the city to levy the maximum rate of 15 mills in 2008, collecting about $120,000 in local property taxes.
Downtown project is scaled back
Traverse City -- Federated Properties plans to reduce the size of its mixed-use and public parking development on 145 W. Front St. and has requested the city extend its land-use permit.
City officials received a letter Monday from Federated CEO Louis P. Ferris Jr. in which he indicated that economic conditions are hampering development possibilities, but he continued to push for the public funding of parking.
Since voters rejected spending up to $16 million in public money on the deck, Federated's plan has been to use $5.49 million in state brownfield dollars on parking.
The original plan called for an eight-story, 100-foot-tall building with public parking, retail and residential space. The letter indicated the new plan is for a building with a footprint nearly half its originally projected size.
Federated was recently left with less property when the tentative deal for obtaining the Record-Eagle parking lot on West Front Street fell through.
TC to televise more meetings
Traverse City -- Nearly $71,000 in new video equipment will allow residents to catch more local government meetings from the comfort of their home.
The city plans to use the new technology to televise more of their meetings on channel 99, the new governmental spot. Grand Traverse County officials don't currently televise their meetings but are considering steps in that direction.
The city purchased four 52-inch LCD flat screens for about $21,500 to show videos and other presentations at meetings. It cost $49,464 to equip the commission chambers with a more high-tech and automated video system that requires one production worker instead of five.
It previously cost the city about $13,500 a year to televise two city commission meetings a month, but should now cost the same to tape about eight a month, city Manager Richard Lewis said.
The equipment money comes from a 30-cent monthly subscriber fee for public, education and government access programming on cable bills. Charter Communications also gave $10,000 through a franchise agreement.
The county pitched in about $7,500 plus labor for chamber remodeling and $6,700 for about 100 chairs, county Administrator Dennis Aloia said.
Man pleads guilty to shooting cat
TRAVERSE CITY -- A Williamsburg man pleaded guilty to killing or torturing an animal after he shot a cat with a bow and arrow this summer.
Chad Siler, 22, tentatively is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 21 to up to four years in prison after he shot a cat in the face near a residence on Lake Lake Township's Manhattan Road in July, records show.
An owner of the cat was with her school-age children when she discovered the wounded feline in her garage. The cat, Angel, was shot through the face with a field-tipped arrow that protruded through the cat's back, authorities said.
The animal was euthanized. Siler initially denied any involvement in the shooting, but pleaded guilty to the felony charge Nov. 2, records show.
Voters nix tapping trust fund
TRAVERSE CITY -- City voters rejected a proposal to dip into a trust fund to repair streets.
The ballot proposal was defeated 2,378 to 1,946.
That means the city can't cap its Brown Bridge Trust Fund and use money from it to pay for street, sidewalk and other repairs for five years. But city officials who backed the plan pledged to find other ways to pay for the work.
The trust fund collects money from oil well royalties and cell tower rentals. The proposal would have capped it at $9 million and allowed an estimated $3.6 million to be diverted to pay for street work.
The plan drew opposition from some who thought the money should be saved for more special purchases, not more routine work such as street maintenance.
Voters reconfigure city commission
TRAVERSE CITY -- Newcomers Jim Carruthers and Barbara Budros brought in the highest number of votes in a five-way race for three, four-year terms on the city commission.
Top vote-getter Budros captured 2,822 votes and Carruthers 2,766; they'll join newly elected Mayor Michael Estes on a drastically reconfigured city board. Estes dumped Mayor Linda Smyka by 65 percent to 35 percent tally.
Incumbent Ralph Soffredine was re-elected to the commission, finishing in third place with 2,551 votes.
Swept off the board was incumbent Scott Hardy, who came in fourth in commission balloting with 1,896 votes.
Challenger Scott Sieffert received 1,029 votes. Commissioner Chris Bzdok was unopposed for a partial term on the board and collected 2,896 votes.
Rich, Crandall win school board seats
TRAVERSE CITY -- In a competitive race for two seats on the Traverse City Area Public Schools board of education, Marjie Rich and Megan Crandall bested five other hopefuls, including Kirt Kilbourne, Chris Thompson, Chuck Curtiss, Tom Kachadurian and Derek Christenson.
Rich earned 7,893 votes, or 29 percent, as of press time. Crandall earned 4,580 votes, or 16.8 percent.
Kilbourne, who finished third, earned 4,376 votes, or 16.1 percent.
School millage renewal passes
TRAVERSE CITY -- Traverse City Area Public Schools will receive more than $100 million spanning a decade for infrastructure improvements, after voters supported a districtwide millage proposal.
The 3.1-mill levy approved Tuesday maintains the rate TCAPS received in its last ballot proposal in 2004. The proposal earned roughly 61 percent of votes, according to figures available late Tuesday.
The tax will generate $105 million over 10 years for capital improvements to elementary and secondary buildings, technology and buses.
BATA buses to keep on rolling
TRAVERSE CITY -- By more than a 3 to 1 margin, voters in both Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties overwhelmingly approved a five-year, 0.35 millage rate to keep the Bay Area Transportation Authority providing bus service.
The millage passed with 13,878 in favor and 3,996 opposed.
"The margin is bigger than we had anticipated and we're very pleased with the support," said Joseph DeKoning, BATA's executive director. "This will give us the local resources to move ahead and continue to provide bus service for the next five years."
The property tax millage will raise about $2.2 million in 2008 for BATA.
Project may need new permit
TRAVERSE CITY -- Federated Properties must obtain a new permit for its proposed West Front Street project or make major changes to its existing permit.
That's the opinion of City Manager Richard Lewis, who responded last week to the developer's request for a one-year extension of its existing special land-use permit for a 100-foot-tall project to include public parking.
The permit expires in February, but Lewis said a revised, much smaller project does not meet permit conditions. Federated CEO Louis Ferris Jr. told city officials last month it planned to reduce the building to about half its original footprint, but gave no details about the building's height or number of parking spots.
Those changes necessitate a new permit or major amendments to the permit, Lewis said.
Springfield voters renew millage
In a 101 to 35 vote, Springfield Township voters approved the renewal of 1 mill for five years to fund the maintenance and operation of the township's ambulance service. A 1 mill, five-year fire protection millage renewal was approved in a 106 to 29 vote. Voters approved a .3-mill levy for general township operations in 2007 and 2008 by a 74 to 61 margin.
In the Forest Area Community Schools board election, Joanna Durfee, running unopposed for a four-year term, received 314 votes. Nicole Gillette, who ran unopposed for a partial term expiring Dec. 31, 2009, received 322 votes. Carolyne M. Woodhams defeated Ricky D. Hulwick 247 to 122 for one partial term that expires Dec. 31, 2008. Some of those voters were in Grand Traverse County.
Elmwood fire millage defeated
GREILICKVILLE -- Elmwood Township voters shot down a five-year fire department millage proposal for the second time since August.
The margin of defeat was significantly lower than three months ago, but voters rejected a five-year, 1.282-mill fire millage proposal with an unofficial total of 778 "no" votes to 581 who favored the levy.
Township officials said they'll be forced to cut the department's budget while they mull another proposal to put before voters.
The proposal included .9-mills for operations and .382-mills for equipment, and would have raised just over $320,000 annually for the department. Almost $96,000 of that total was targeted for new equipment, including replacement of a 27-year-old engine.
U.S. Marshals evict Lakeshore holdout
GLEN HAVEN -- Carolyn Bumgardner stood Thursday in the cold drizzle amid friends and family while authorities boarded up her trailer home and U.S. Marshals instructed movers to box and load her belongings in a truck.
The Leelanau County woman, 70, had about an hour to collect what she could from a double-wide trailer parked behind her childhood home, declared the marshals, who then ushered Bumgardner to the road and blocked her driveway.
Bumgardner was the last resident of the village of Glen Haven, now entirely consumed by the sprawling Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell issued a writ of assistance Wednesday that allowed marshals to evict Bumgardner, ending her decades-long dispute with the National Park Service.
Tom Ulrich, Sleeping Bear's assistant superintendent, said the park service purchased Bumgardner's property at 5427 Glen Haven Road in 1980, and she was allowed to remain there for 25 years. She was paid about $36,000 for the property, he said.
Ulrich said Congress enforced eminent domain to turn Glen Haven into a public area along the Michigan lakeshore.
Voters pass school bond request
Voters approved a $14.1 million bond issue request by Onekama Consolidated Schools in a 637 to 493 vote. The money is intended to fund security systems, educational technology systems and equipment, the construction of a bus garage and the development and improvement of athletic facilities.
For three open Manistee City Council spots, Cynthia Fuller received 336 votes, IIona Haydon received 292 votes and Richard Mack received 327 votes. All three ran unopposed.
Russell wins bid for mayor
Lake City voters denied both a five-year elimination of the Headlee Real Property Tax roll back provision -- 103 no to 52 yes votes -- and denied a permanent 1 mill levy for law and municipal code enforcement on a vote of 92 to 66.
Mike Russell received 130 votes for mayor while Pat Ritz won a write-in vote for treasurer with 80 votes compared to five write-in votes for Dorothy Helsel. Alan Gray had 116 votes and Nancy Girardot had 128 votes to sew up two of three council member spots. The third spot went to write-in candidate Tina Jo Helsel with 58 votes. Write-in candidate Shannon Hancock finished fourth with 17 votes.
Facility may become work-release center
GAYLORD -- Otsego County officials will decide whether to spend $14,000 to keep a transition house in Gaylord open until the end of the year, when they hope to take over the program as a daytime work-release center.
Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan intends to close its Gaylord transition house in December because of state budget cuts to housing and treatment programs. It marks the third such closure for the nonprofit agency, following programs that were ended in Cadillac and Traverse City.
"We're looking to hopefully assume it at the first of the year, making it some kind of work-release center for inmates at the jail," said Otsego Sheriff Jim McBride.
The program initially would not be an overnight operation, officials said.
McBride said clients would report every morning in person and then can either go to their job or join a work crew with other unemployed offenders.
Prison guard to quit in deal
CADILLAC -- A prison corrections officer accused of theft and drug charges will resign as part of a plea deal.
David Martin, a Pugsley Correctional Facility officer, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10 after he pleaded no contest Oct. 31, a day before his scheduled trial, to a pair of misdemeanors for receiving and concealing stolen property and advertising an imitation controlled substance, records show.
Martin, 41, initially was charged with three felonies for trading prescription drugs to Manton resident Kevin Sellers for a stolen television in March.