Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 30, 2007

Week In Review: 12/30/2007


ANTRIM

Canton girl killed in skiing accident

MANCELONA -- A downstate girl who died in a Shanty Creek Resorts skiing accident has been identified as Clare Dougherty.

Dougherty, 13, of Canton, died after colliding with a retaining wall at about noon Tuesday at Schuss Mountain, Antrim County Sheriff Terry Johnson said. His department is considering the incident a "pure accident," he added.

The girl and her family had been staying at the resort for a few days and were scheduled to leave Tuesday.

GRAND TRAVERSE

Woman remains in hospital after blast

Traverse City -- A woman remains hospitalized following a home explosion, but her husband was released from a Grand Rapids burn center.

Angela Fitzpatrick was in fair condition at Munson Medical Center early Monday, a spokesman said. Darryl Fitzpatrick was discharged early Monday from Grand Rapids' Blodgett Regional Burn Center, a spokeswoman said.

The Fitzpatricks were inside their Mancelona Township trailer early Dec. 22 when an explosion reduced the structure to rubble. State and local fire investigators believe gas leaking into the home's crawl space fueled the blast.

TC Senior Center may expand

Traverse City -- Traverse City Senior Center director Lori Wells is working with members and a local community foundation to raise funds for a new center.

The center is a service provided by the city with its own budget separate from the general fund, Wells said. In addition to the city, seven area townships, the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging and the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan will also provide financial support.

The center, located at 801 E. Front St. on the bayfront, is housed in a one-story, 5,300-square foot building. Plans call for a new two-story, 20,000-square foot building on the same site.

It'll take about $4.5 million to construct and equip the new facility. Center officials have collected nearly $100,000 since they began raising money and project awareness in 2000, she said.

Fundraising efforts recently rose to a new level when city commissioners gave approval to execute a temporary fund agreement with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation for the center's capital campaign.

The community foundation fund has 501 (c)(3) status and allows the center to apply for grants and use other fundraising mechanisms.

LeRoy man, 18, suspected of arson

Traverse City -- Police arrested a LeRoy man suspected of lighting the contents of three dumpsters on fire over the holiday weekend.

The man, 18, is suspected of lighting the fires in Garfield Township early Dec. 22, according to a release from the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Department. The first report was at about 2:30 a.m. in the parking lot of 2896 Glen Drive. Two other fires were reported, one at 1285 Birch Tree Lane and the other at 2861 Glen Drive.

Deputies were able to gather evidence that led to the suspect, the release states. The suspect later admitted to starting the fires and was arrested. His name was not released.

Man faces drunken driving charges

Traverse City -- A Midland man with a history of drunken driving again faces charges for allegedly driving under the influence.

Ronald Wallace Butts, 46, is charged with third-offense operating while intoxicated, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Authorities authorized a warrant for his arrest, court records show.

A Grand Traverse sheriff's deputy responded to a traffic crash on M-113 in Fife Lake Township the morning of Nov. 30, according to records. Butts was driving a sport utility vehicle, and the deputy noticed his eyes were watery and bloodshot.

Butts admitted he had a lot to drink the night before, records show. A blood test revealed his blood alcohol content was .14 percent.

Butts was convicted of drunken driving in 1993 and 1997, according to records.

Plans for large-scale project continue

ACME -- Two major development proposals in Acme Township may be stalled by litigation, but plans for another large-scale commercial project are moving ahead.

Bates Crossing, a 271,000-square-foot commercial complex near the intersection of M-72 and Bates Road, is under review by the Acme Township Planning Commission and a public hearing on the plans is set for Jan. 28.

The current proposal calls for a 150,000-square-foot anchor store, two "junior anchors" of around 50,000 square feet each and a third structure of 21,000 square feet on property south of M-72 in the township's Business-3 zoning district.

The project comes on the heels of two other commercial proposals along M-72, The Village at Grand Traverse and a new Meijer store proposed along either side of Lautner Road, that were bogged down in lawsuits and remain on the drawing board.

Plane crash kills 1, injures other occupant

Traverse City -- A small airplane crashed in East Bay Township as it approached Cherry Capital Airport shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday.

Two people were aboard a twin-engine Cessna 310 when it crashed, killing one and sending another to Munson Medical Center with third-degree burns, officials said.

Authorities wouldn't provide any identifying information about the plane's occupants Thursday night.

Emergency workers extracted the victims by snowmobile from a densely wooded swamp about a mile southwest of Five Mile and Pinebrook roads roughly an hour after airport tower officials and residents reported the downed plane around 7 p.m., authorities said.

"The debris field is spread all over out there," said Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department spokesman Randy Agruda. "It is very dense, very wooded, very thick back there."

Several roads in the area were blocked off, including Five Mile Road between Hammond and Holiday roads, Evelyn Street at Holiday Road and Pinebrook Road at Five Mile.

Meijer ad criticized township officials

TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc. co-chairman Hank Meijer signed a letter that criticized Acme Township's elected officials just days before a February recall election, but he now contends the company's top officials knew nothing of a plot to topple the township board.

Grand Rapids public relations firm Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson Inc., billed Meijer at least $30,000 in its campaign to remove Acme's Board of Trustees, including a charge for a Feb. 21 telephone conversation between a Seyferth employee and Stacie Behler, a Meijer vice president, "on Meijer plan for Forum/ad."

In a large display advertisement published in the Record-Eagle on Feb. 25, two days before the recall election, a letter signed by Hank Meijer discussed the company's frustrations with the Acme Township board.

Behler denied a Record-Eagle reporter's requests to interview Hank Meijer and company President Mark Murray. But in a Grand Rapids Press story published Thursday, Hank Meijer cited a lack of "internal controls" that led to the company's involvement in the recall campaign without the knowledge of its top executives.

State law prohibits corporations from contributing to political campaigns.

Couple allegedly harbored runaways

Traverse City -- A Blair Township couple is charged with harboring two local runaway teens.

Ray Alan Weber, 39 and Brenda May Bare, 43, both are charged with harboring runaways, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and furnishing alcohol to minors.

The two were arrested after a lengthy investigation into allegations they harbored the teens in their 1213 W. Silver Lake home, Grand Traverse County Undersheriff Nathan Alger said.

The pair allegedly housed a Blair Township girl, 15, and an Interlochen boy, 16, from Nov. 20 through Dec. 4 after the teens ran away from home. Police approached the couple multiple times to inquire about the missing teens, but they repeatedly denied knowing where they were, Alger said.

The teens eventually were spotted outside the residence by authorities and taken home, Alger said.

Charges filed in fatal crash

Traverse City -- An Interlochen woman's blood alcohol content topped four times the state's legal limit when she slammed into another vehicle and killed an elderly Lake Ann man.

Authorities say tests showed Patricia Ann Steele's blood-alcohol level was .36 when her van crossed the center line on U.S. 31 South near Interlochen Dec. 12 and collided with a car carrying Gerald and Elaine Frost of Lake Ann.

Steele, 48, is charged with operating while intoxicated causing death, a 15-year felony, and operating while intoxicated causing serious injury, a five-year felony.

She also is charged with second-offense operating while intoxicated and having an open intoxicant in her vehicle, both misdemeanors.

Police arrested her Wednesday. A preliminary examination is set for Jan. 8, and she remained in jail Thursday afternoon.

LEELANAU

Man charged with negligent homicide

GREILICKVILLE -- Leelanau County prosecutors authorized negligent homicide charges against a downstate man allegedly responsible for a crash that killed one person and hospitalized several others.

Robert Nadai, 55, of Royal Oak, allegedly drove through a stop sign on Hoxie Road at Bugai Road and into the path of a vehicle carrying five people. Five people were sent to the hospital after the Oct. 13 crash, and Claribel Crego Snyder, 91, of Traverse City, eventually died.

Chief Assistant Leelanau County Prosecutor Douglas Donaldson said his office authorized the warrant Thursday. Leelanau Undersheriff Scott Wooters was not yet aware of the warrant when reached by phone, but said his department likely would contact Nadai to arrange for an arrest.

A negligent homicide charge is a high court misdemeanor, Donaldson said, and carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

MANISTEE

Police investigating school burglaries

MANISTEE -- City police are investigating recent burglaries at three local schools.

Thieves broke into Manistee Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School and Casman Alternative Academy between Dec. 22 and 24, city police said in a statement.

Items reported missing include office equipment, prescription drugs and an undisclosed amount of money. The investigation is ongoing.

Authorities are asking anyone with information on the break-ins to call city police at 723-2533.

OTSEGO

Snowman cam draws viewers

GAYLORD -- A couple of winters ago Ken and Sheryl Borton set up an Internet camera in their back yard for downstate snowmobiling friends to monitor snow depths -- an innocuous beginning for a site that this year gained a lot of popularity.

"A few weeks ago we got 12,600 hits in one day when it snowed so much," Ken said.

The couple averages about 5,000 daily hits on their Web site, www.snowmancam.com, where visitors can watch live, streamed footage of snow and any critters at their backyard feeders. They formerly received a fraction of that traffic, but that was before they were selected as one of the 25 Most Interesting Webcams of 2006 by EarthCam, a leading webcam network and authority on the Internet camera industry.

This year the couple added a chat room to their site, where people discuss their families and jobs, swap recipes and comment on their favorite Borton backyard squirrel. There was a lot of chatter this summer about a black bear that rambled into the frame, as well.

Only 25 percent of the site's 700 registered users are in the state, but all the worldwide visitors get a good view of northern Lower Michigan's Snow Belt zone from a spot in the hilly terrain of southern Otsego County.