State Roundup

 Traverse City

Study to look at railroad link for Traverse City area 
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A nonprofit group that advocates for sustainable land use is planning to look at whether it makes sense to use a train to link Traverse City and some nearby communities.
The Michigan Land Use Institute plans to conduct a preliminary feasibility study about using existing railroad track to transport people from downtown Traverse City to the area of Acme Township and Williamsburg, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reports.
“We see this not only as an opportunity to provide transportation service, but also down the road, in the long-term it could provide support for some more walkable type of development along the ends of the line,” said James Bruckbauer, transportation policy specialist at the Land Use Institute.
Train service would help support a growing population in the area, which includes attractions such as Grand Traverse Resort and the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. The idea comes as the Michigan Department of Transportation plans area work on U.S. 31 in 2015.
“This creates an opportunity to talk about, down the road, how do we want to get around the region and do we want more options for getting around our heavily traveled roads?” Bruckbauer said.
The Bay Area Transportation Authority added a bus route from Traverse City to Williamsburg in May. Ridership on the route has consistently ranged between 1,000 and 1,500 rides each month, said Carrie Thompson, the BATA business development director.
Train service would compete with existing bus service.
“In my mind, rail transportation is better suited for higher population densities than we have here in this region,” Matt Skeels, coordinator for the Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study at the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.
The study is partially funded by a $5,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors. It aims to look at the costs of the project, whether the train would be geared toward tourists or commuters and what sort of train car might be used for service.
The existing train track, owned by MDOT, is used occasionally to transport lumber.
 
Grand Rapids
Man gets prison after baby had 19 bone fractures 
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A Grand Rapids-area man whose 3-week-old son was found with 19 bone fractures has been sentenced to at least 3 1/2 years in prison.
David Steiger of Sparta was sentenced Tuesday in Kent County Circuit Court. He earlier pleaded no contest to first-degree child abuse and could spend up to 10 years behind bars. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing.
Steiger was charged after bringing the child to a hospital last year when the baby wouldn’t stop crying.
Police say he told them that he pushed the baby’s legs and heard a pop. Investigators say Steiger also said the boy fell off a couch.

Traverse City
Propane shortage prompts nearly 300 complaints 
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A propane shortage brought on in part by heavy demand during an abnormally cold winter has prompted nearly 300 complaints about high prices to the Michigan attorney general’s office, officials said.
Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, said the office received 205 phone complaints and 91 written complaints since Jan. 22. Most of the complaints allege price-gouging by propane providers, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.
“Each complaint is being reviewed in accordance with our procedures,” Yearout said.
The attorney general’s office is encouraging consumers who suspect gouging to keep receipts and other proof of payment.
Michigan is among many states that have declared propane energy emergencies as supplies dropped last month. Propane prices are now 72 percent higher than a year ago, said Judy Palnau, spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Lawmakers have been getting complaints about propane prices, which approached $5 a gallon in parts of the Upper Peninsula last week. The statewide average is now at $3.61 a gallon, a 37 percent price rise in one week.
Gov. Rick Snyder and six other governors wrote to President Barack Obama in a letter dated Tuesday asking for help in addressing the propane shortage and price increases. They want the administration to help increase propane supplies through “every means of transport.”
They encouraged Obama to consider regulatory waivers aimed at increasing supplies and hoped the Small Business Administration would ease loan requirements to help communities respond to the shortage. The letter also said they wanted to explore actions to improve supply stability in future years.
Problems that created the shortfall include heavy demand caused by the cold weather and a late harvest that required propane for drying grain, as well as transportation issues such as icy roads, heavy snowfall, rail line problems and pipeline maintenance.
 
Genoa Township
Ambulance driver in fatal crash won’t face charges 
GENOA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — No charges will be filed against a Livingston County EMS driver who struck and killed a man last year.
County Prosecutor William Vailliencourt made the announcement Tuesday, saying in a statement that the evidence in “these circumstances is insufficient to justify any criminal charges.”
According to a state police investigation, Patrick Thomas Billo was lying in or near the center lane of a road in Genoa Township when an ambulance struck him in the early morning hours of Nov. 18.
An autopsy indicated that the 49-year-old victim was “highly intoxicated” at the time. And Billo was wearing dark clothing when he was struck.
Vailliencourt says the ambulance driver thought “he hit trash or debris in the roadway.”
There were heavy winds with debris blowing across the roadway at the time.
 
Ann Arbor
Pretrial set for man in medical student’s slaying 
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for one of two men charged in the shooting death of a 25-year-old University of Michigan medical student.
The Ann Arbor News reports that Shaquille Jones’ case was pushed back to Feb. 19 when a plea in Paul DeWolf’s slaying wasn’t made Tuesday as expected.
DeWolf was found dead July 24, 2013, at an off-campus medical fraternity. A video game system was taken and later sold for $80.
The 21-year-old Jones and 20-year-old Joei Jordan were arrested in November in their native South Carolina and charged with murder and home invasion.
They told police that the fraternity house was one of two homes they broke into July 23 and that an accomplice accidently shot DeWolf.
Jordan’s trial is scheduled May 19.

 

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