State Roundup

Judge rejects $140K in fees in W. Mich. lawsuit

PLAINWELL, Mich. (AP) — A judge has rejected $140,000 in fees for attorneys who settled a lawsuit for seven Michigan meatpacking workers for a bit more than $1,000.
Federal Judge Paul Maloney calls the request “exorbitant.” He says dozens of plaintiffs who still are part of the lawsuit haven’t recovered anything yet.
The lawsuit accuses JBS Plainwell in Allegan County of failing to pay workers when putting on or taking off protective wear. Seven people took settlements ranging from $110 to $215.
Matt Turner of the Sommers Schwartz firm and other lawyers asked the judge to order the meatpacker to pay $140,000 in fees. But fees won’t be addressed until the case ends.
Turner defended the request, saying the seven plaintiffs benefited from legal work done so far for the entire class of workers.

State Senate eyes vote on Medicaid in late August

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Michigan Senate says he’s tentatively planning to hold a vote in late August on Medicaid expansion legislation.
Majority Leader Randy Richardville on Wednesday said a group of senators studying the issue could propose an alternative to a House bill next week. If Richardville’s committee approves the measure in late July, that would give the full Senate about a month to review it before voting.
In June, the Republican-led House voted to expand government health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults under the federal health care law. But the Senate didn’t vote on the bill, angering Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and leading him to pressure senators to vote.
Richardville and others are declining to talk publicly about changes being considered to the House bill.

Developer eyes  Detroit’s Packard site for project

DETROIT (AP) — Developers have set their sights on a deteriorating former Detroit car plant that’s become better known for malicious destruction and urban decay.
Evanston, Ill.-based developer Bill Hults is leading a group of investors who want to redevelop the 3.5 million-square-foot former Packard plant, The Detroit News reported Wednesday. They hope to convert the 110-year-old facility into a commercial, housing and entertainment complex.
Hults said he’s been talking for months with Wayne County officials about buying the plant out of foreclosure for its nearly $1 million unpaid tax bill. County Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski confirmed the conversations, but cautions that the property presents many challenges.
“We want to make sure the neglect of this property does not continue,” said Szymanski. A sale could be completed within several weeks and the agreement will require the buyers to secure the building within six months or demolish it, he said.
“If this comes to fruition, it will be a home run. I have a difficult time imagining any property that presents the issues that the Packard plant does,” Szymanski said.
The plant was built in 1903, and the last Packard automobile was built there in the mid-1950s. Other smaller industrial businesses have used the facility since. As the years passed, the plant increasingly became the target of thieves, metal scrappers, urban explorers and graffiti artists.
“Packard is a global brand and has a global identity,” Hults said. “I couldn’t spend enough money to have that built-in identity. ... If Packard wasn’t there or was bulldozed, we wouldn’t be doing this.”
Hults, who has dubbed the redevelopment project the Villages of Packard, has retained Albert Kahn Associates, the architectural firm that built the complex. Rick Dye, a principal on the project at Kahn, said “the bones are still good.”
Hults has a string of unpaid debts in the Chicago area, with state and federal liens indicating he owes about $208,000 in back taxes, the newspaper reported. He said the debt is closer to $50,000 and that he plans to resolve that soon.
Other investors, whom he declined to name until the project proceeds, include private backers, foundations and real estate trusts, he said. One of them is a humanitarian group that wants to spend $85 million on veteran and senior housing in the area.
Hults said the investors want to save as many of the complex’s 47 buildings as possible. Preservation plans include the covered bridge over Grand Boulevard connecting buildings — a favored target for graffiti.