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South Haven High School students are evacuated from the building and escorted to nearby Lincoln Elementary School today after a bomb threat was discovered at the school.
Bomb threat made
at South Haven
Students at South Haven High School have been evacuated from the school premises, today, following a bomb threat reported to police at 12:20 p.m. The threat was apparently written on a piece of paper that was found in a bathroom, according to initial accounts of the incident, said South Haven Police Officer Antwan Bell. After finding out about the threat school officials decided to evacuate the building. Students were escorted to Lincoln Elementary School, which is located next to the high school. The high schoolers weren't the only ones evacuated from the building. Students from Lincoln School and Maple Grove Elementary School were taking part in an assembly in the high school auditorium, and swimming in the high school pool. They too, had to be evacuated to Lincoln School. It is expected that students will stay at Lincoln School throughout the rest of the school day until dismissal time. In the meantime, South Haven police officers and the Michigan State Police bomb sniffing dogs will search the building to ensure there is no bomb. District Superintendent Bob Herrera speculated the threat could be a hoax, due to today being the last day students are in school until Christmas vacation. However, he said, the school district wanted to be cautious and evacuate the building in case the threat is true.
Dog perishes in fire
Firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services battled an early morning blaze, today, that ended up destroying a trailer and claiming the life of a dog. The mobile home fire at Whispering Pines Estates was reported at 5:45 a.m. When firefighters arrived the trailer was fully engulfed in flames. The residents of the trailer were not home at the time of the blaze, however, a dog perished. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The mobile home park is located on County Road 388 near 67th Street in Geneva Township. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
A 57-year-old South Haven man had to be rushed to South Haven Health System this morning after he collapsed near the South Haven lighthouse. Tom Watson had been jogging on the south pier toward the lighthouse at approximately 10:30 a.m. when he collapsed, possibly from a heart attack, according to South Haven Police. A man who was fishing on the pier called 911 after seeing Watson fall. Rescue workers from South Haven Area Emergency Services provided emergency medical treatment to Watson and rushed him to South Haven Hospital. Efforts to revive Watson were unsuccessful, however. He died this afternoon. (Photo by Becky Kark)
A total loss
Three fire departments battled a fire, Saturday afternoon, that destroyed a home in Geneva Township. The dwelling on 66th Street, just south of County Road 388 was totally engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at 12:25 p.m. No one was home when the fire was reported by a passerby. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. South Haven Area Emergency Services along with Bangor and Columbia fire departments put out the fire. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services).
Five fire departments battle blaze
Firefighters from five departments battled a house fire that occurred this morning at a home on County Road 376 near 60th Street, in Bangor Township. No injuries were reported and the cause remains under investigation. Bangor Community Fire Department and fire units from Hartford, Lawrence, Watervliet and South Haven Area Emergency Services responded to the blaze. When the first firefighters arrived at 11:30 a.m.,, flames were coming through the roof of the two-story home. In the photo, a firefighter from SHAES tries to control the smoke and flames coming from the roof of the home. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
State grant recommended for development of Pilgrim Haven Natural Area
Two Van Buren County recreational projects are in line to receive $800,000 in grant funding through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR's Trust Fund board of trustees announced today that Pilgrim Haven Natural Area in South Haven Township and the proposed Fruit Belt recreation trail in eastern Van Buren County are two of 69 recipients recommended for grants from the state.
Pilgrim Haven's $50,000 grant was requested by South Haven Area Recreation Authority which plans to use the money to develop a universally accessible public access to Lake Michigan that will include a paved walk to the lake bluff, beach mats to the water's edge, signage, lighting, a barrier-free ramp onto the beach and a 50-car parking lot.
The $750,000 grant for the Fruit Belt Trail will be used to acquire 11 miles of a former rail bed connecting the towns of Paw Paw, Lawrence, Mattawan and Hartford to the Van Buren Trail State Park, the City of South Haven and the Kal-Haven Trail.
This year, the DNR Trust Fund's board of trustees recommended $18.2 million for acquisition grants and $6.4 million for development grants.
The board considered a total of 156 applications seeking $44.7 million in funding. In a competitive process, all eligible applications were evaluated on scoring criteria developed by the Trust Fund board. “Broader public access to plentiful, quality outdoor recreation opportunities plays a central role in Michigan’s economy and quality of life for residents and visitors,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund continues to support active, healthy lifestyles for people of all abilities, and has done so for nearly 40 years, funding recreational opportunities in every county in Michigan.”
The Trust Fund board's recommendations will go to the state legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. Upon approval, the legislature will forward a bill to the governor for his signature.
Gas prices continue to fall at the pump
As the holiday season gets into full swing, shoppers have a little more jingle in their pockets thanks to lower gasoline prices.
Average retail gasoline prices in Michigan have fallen 14.2 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.70 per gallon for unleaded fuel, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 4,913 gas outlets in Michigan. Locally, gas prices were $2.55-$2.59 on Sunday.
Including the change in gas prices in Michigan during the past week, prices Sunday were 51.6 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 29.4 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 25.4 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 57.2 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.
“The amount of green on my screen is astounding - but there's no grinch here. We continue to see significant price drops in all 50 states - so large are the declines and so low the prices that Americans are now saving over a quarter billion dollars daily versus prices a year ago- or some 60 cents every gallon,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. “Sixteen states saw average gas prices drop double digits per gallon over the last week and we saw $1.99 gas prices come back for the first time since 2010 in Texas and Oklahoma." And while many motorists are asking how long the decline and low prices will last, DeHaan predicts - "don't worry - it's not over yet.”
GasBuddy is the source for real-time local gas prices. Founded in 2000, GasBuddy.com developed as an initiative to provide consumers access to local, current gas prices. Through the GasBuddy.com website and the free GasBuddy mobile app, users can find and share gas prices with fellow drivers, saving big money at the pump.
Police: South Haven hunter drowns in creek
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
ALLEGAN — A South Haven man who went into the Allegan State Game Area with his kayak to do some waterfowl hunting and fishing on Saturday, Nov. 29, is believed to have drowned.
Members of the Allegan County Sheriff's Department dive team recovered the body of Kyle Shinske, 27, from Swan Creek, northwest of Allegan, around 8 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 30, sheriff's Capt. Frank Baker said.
An extensive search for Shinske was launched around 6 p.m. on Nov. 29 after his abandoned car with a kayak rack was found, along with a kayak paddle, near the launch site in the game area, Baker said. A state police helicopter was brought in to assist in the search, he added.
Shinske was not wearing a life vest.
The preliminary investigation calls the death a result of drowning due to a boating accident, but that will have to be verified through an autopsy and forensic examination, Baker said.
The sheriff's department and state police were assisted at the scene by a state Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, and Life EMS.
Shinske graduated from South Haven High School and was an avid athlete who competed on the soccer, swim and tennis teams.
Fund started for fire victim
By HP staff
An online fund has been launched to help the family of a South Haven Township man critically injured in an explosion and house fire.
Shelly Tran of St. Petersburg, Fla., said she launched the fund to help her nephew Dalton Wickersham and his family. The crowdfunding effort is at gofundme.com/hxmtcw.
She said her nephew, 23, is in critical conditon at the Bronson Methodist Hospital burn unit in Kalamazoo. He suffered second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body. Smoke inhalation has left him with severe lung damage, she said.
She said Wickersham will spend at least two months in the hospital and faces a long recovery.
Wickersham was the sole provider for his wife and their two young children, Tran said. The fire destroyed the house and about 75 percent of the family’s belongings, including clothes.
She said the three are staying at the Ronald McDonald house in Kalamazoo while Wickersham faces treatment.
The incident was Nov. 24 at the family’s house at 74845 County Road 380. Firefighters said Wickersham was lighting the pilot on a water heater when the explosion occurred.
Investigators suspect that fumes from recently delivered propane had drifted into the house, creating the explosive situation.
Initial fire department reports said the victim was Kenneth Wichersham, but Tran said Kenneth is a legal name and friends know him as Dalton. Wickersham is the correct last name.
Man severely burned in house fire
A South Haven Township man suffered severe burns in a house fire that occurred late Monday afternoon.
Kenneth Wichersham, 23, was attempting to light a pilot light on a hot water heater when an explosion occurred, according to a report from South Haven Area Emergency Services.
Wichersham's face, hands and arms were severely burned from the blast.
When firefighters arrived at 6 p.m. to the home at 74845 County Road 380, they had to battle the fire that had spread from the furnace room toward the attic.
“The fire was difficult to contain due to the 40-mile-per-hour winds that were blowing,” said Ron Wise, executive director of SHAES.
Wichersham was taken by Covert Township Ambulance to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. The home suffered heavy fire damage to the attic and furnace room.
SHAES was assisted by Covert Fire and Ambulance, Bangor Community Fire Department and South Haven Police Department.
Jet skiers caught in turbulent Lake Michigan waves
Two men from Waterford Mich. discovered the hard way how violent the waves of Lake Michigan can be in November.
The two men decided to ride the waves, Monday afternoon, when they became separated from their craft and struggled in the cold lake waters near the North Pier.
South Haven Area Emergency Services responders found the two subjects about 50 yards into the lake attempting to make it back to shore.
Both victims were assisted by responders and did not require any medical attention. Both men had been wearing wet suits and life preservers, according to Ron Wise, executive director of SAES.
“Both victims stated they were not aware how violent Lake Michigan was,” Wise said.
As for the jet ski, it ended up washing to shore and was removed from the beach by emergency responders with the assistance of a front-end loader from the City of South Haven Public Works Department.
Waterford is located in Oakland County on the east side of the state.
Casco man discovers decomposed body on Lake Michigan beach
David Tidwell of Casco Township got a shocking surprise this past weekend when he discovered a decomposed body washed ashore on a beach just north of South Haven.
Tidwell said he was walking his dog, Saturday, near his home in Eaton Park subdivision when the dog ran ahead and began sniffing at something.
“At first I thought it was a big fish, but when I got closer I realized what it was,” Tidwell said.
Emergency crews and Allegan County Sheriff's deputies came to the scene shortly afterwards to examine the body.
“The body is badly decomposed and may have been in the water for a considerable amount of time,” Capt. Frank Baker of the sheriff's department said today in a news release. “Initial information is very limited due to the extent of decomposition. DNA or dental information will most likely be required before any identification can be made.”
An autopsy of the body is scheduled today.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Allegan County Sheriff's office's investigation division.
Man suffers serious injuries in crash
An Illinois man suffered serious injuries after his vehicle lost control on a slippery road and collided with an oncoming vehicle, Saturday, Nov. 15, in Geneva Township.
Wayne Kinnunen of Maple Park, Ill., was airflighted to Bronson Hospital following the accident that occurred at approximately noon on County Road 687, between Phoenix and Baseline roads, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's Department report.
The accident occurred when a Toyota pickup truck, driven by Kinnunen, allegedly lost control on the icy road and slid into the path of an F-350 pickup driven by Jason Michael Byrd, 38, of South Haven.
Kinnunen suffered head injuries and was taken first to South Haven Health System. Later he was transported via helicopter to Bronson. Byrd did not suffer injuries from the accident, according to the sheriff department report.
Three people die after vehicle collides with train
OSHTEMO TWP. — Three young adults from Kalamazoo died tragically, Tuesday, when their vehicle collided with an Amtrak Train.
The crash occurred at approximately 4:30 p.m. at a train crossing on 11th Street, south of KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township, according to Lt. Dale Hinz, commander of the Michigan State Police post in Paw Paw.
Witnesses told police that a minivan, driven by 21-year-old Joshua Cartwright, was northbound on 11th Street when he apparently drove around vehicles that were stopped for the train crossing signals. At the crossing the van was struck broadside by an Amtrak Train carrying approximately 120 passengers.
The train ended up pushing the van for approximately a mile before it could come to a complete stop.
Cartwright, along with his two passengers, Justin Mastin, 19, and Ashley Melson, 20, were pronounced dead at the scene. No train passengers were injured.
Emergency personnel were on the scene for 4-1/2 hours working to free the driver and passengers of the van and removing it from the tracks.
“Investigation shows that the railroad crossing lights, gates and bells were all functioning at the time of the crash,” Hinz reported. However, police are still continuing to investigate the incident, which Hinz said, “serves as a grim reminder to motorists to never disregard train crossing signals.”
Early winter storm closes schools; Deputies deal with 2 semi-truck accidents on I-196
By TRIBUNE STAFF
If you don't have to travel today, it would be a good time to stay home.
Cold temperatures and blowing snow have created slippery road conditions and poor visibility due to white-out conditions along highways and rural roads throughout southwest Michigan.
Currently, Allegan County Sheriff's department deputies are dealing with two semi-truck accidents on Interstate 196 near the Pullman exit and at the 38-mile marker in Saugatuck Township.
“Motorists are requested to turn on their headlights,” said Captain Frank Baker of the Allegan County Sheriff's Department. He also cautioned private vehicles not to use tow straps to remove slide offs due to poor visibility conditions.
The winter storm that began Monday closed many school districts throughout southwest Michigan today, including South Haven, Covert, Bangor and Bloomingdale.
The winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service Monday remains in effect until 9 p.m. tonight. So far, 5-7 inches of snow have fallen in the South Haven area.
Area residents can expect two to four more inches of snow to fall today, with rates of up to an inch per hour at times. Winds are coming from the west, gusting to 30 miles per hour. The temperature in South Haven is currently 19 degrees, however it feels more like 5 degrees with the wind chill.
Even though the snow is expected to taper off tonight it will not end. The National Weather Service reports that additional snow will fall Wednesday and Thursday. The heaviest snowfall will occur toward Lake Michigan, especially from Holland north to Ludington.
Deputy struck by vehicle while helping elderly woman
A Van Buren County Sheriff's deputy and a 74-year-old woman suffered injuries early this morning after being struck by a car in Mattawan.
A sheriff's report indicates that deputy Brian Matyas found the woman laying in the snow at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Cole Avenue, just east of 25th Street. He stopped, summoned an ambulance and began rendering aid to the woman, who was laying on the side of the road. While assisting the woman, both she and the deputy were struck by a westbound Ford Focus driven by a 25-year-old woman from Mattawan.
Matyas suffered minor injuries and bruises to his left hip and leg and was treated and released from Bronson Lake View Hospital in Paw Paw. The 74-year-old Mattawan woman was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. She is currently listed in stable condition.
The accident is still under investigation. Once the investigation has been completed it will be forwarded to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office for review.
Man critically injured in car accident
CORRECTION: The vehicle driven by Wayne Kinnunen of Illinois lost control on the slippery road and collided with a pickup truck driven by Jason Michael Byrd of South Haven.
An Illinois man remained in critical condition, Sunday evening, at Bronson Methodist Hospital after his vehicle collided with another one, Saturday, in Geneva Township.
Wayne Kinnunen of Maple Park, Ill., was airflighted to Bronson Hospital following the accident that occurred at approximately noon on County Road 687, between Phoenix and Baseline roads, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's Department report.
The accident occurred when a Toyota pickup truck, driven by Jason Michael Byrd, 38, of South Haven, allegedly lost control on the icy road and slid into the path of Kinnunen's F-350 pickup, which had a snow plow attached to it.
Kinnunen suffered head injuries and was taken first to South Haven Health System. Later he was transported via helicopter to Bronson. Byrd did not suffer injuries from the accident, according to the sheriff department report.
Deputies are still investigating the accident.
Firefighters battle blaze
Firefighters from South Haven, Bangor and Columbia Township spent time today battling a house fire on 59 1/2 Street, south of County Road 380. When firefighters arrived shortly before noon they found the house fully engulfed in flames. The occupants escaped safely. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
Election results favor incumbents, Republicans in most races
Voters, for the most part, in Van Buren County apparently like the status quo, as Tuesday's general election results show.
Electors returned incumbents in most of the federal, state, county, and local races.
And in most of those races, the incumbents are Republican.
Voter traffic at most precincts, such as Geneva Township, remained steady throughout the day.
“It's more like a presidential election,” said Geneva Township Supervisor Nancy Whaley.
Of the county's 55,418 registered voters, 40 percent cast ballots in Tuesday's election.
Despite strong efforts by Democrats to unseat Republicans, most federal and state GOP candidates prevailed and results in Van Buren County reflected results throughout Michigan.
Fred Upton earned his 15th term as U.S. Representative for the 6th District; Gov. Rick Snyder defeated Democrat Mark Schauer; Tonya Schuitmaker won easily over her challenger, Jim Walters for the 26th District State Senate seat, and Aric Nesbitt won re-election as State Representative for the 66th district despite a hard-fought challenge from South Haven Democrat Annie Brown. The only Democrat who earned a decisive victory over a Republican occurred in Michigan's U.S. Senate race where Gary Peters defeated Terri Lynn Land.
Closer to home in South Haven, two newcomers will take their place on the South Haven Board of Education. While voters returned Bryan Lewis and Corey Davis to the board, Tyler Dotson and Laura Bos unseated Stuart Price. The other incumbent, Mike Rainey, chose not to seek re-election. The remaining candidates who vied for the four available seats were Joe Wilkins, Edward Morse and Holly Boyd.
Here are Van Buren County results for Tuesday's election with all precincts reporting:
Rick Snyder 12,310
Mark Schauer 9,250
Secretary of State
Ruth Johnson 12,315
Godfrey Dillard 8,214
66th District House of Representatives
Aric Nesbitt 12,483
Annie Brown 9,221
Bill Schuette 12,081
Mark Totten 8,418
United States Senator
Gary Peters 10,663
Terri Lynn Land 10,046
Congress 6th District
Fred Upton 12,136
Paul Clements 9,071
State Senator 26th District
Tonya Schuitmaker 12,810
Jim Walters 8,231
County Commission District 1
Mike Henry 2,183
Sue Hammond 1,690
Richard Godfrey 2,686
Richard Freestone 1,692
Columbia Twp. Trustee partial term
John Huizenga 436
Lake Michigan College
Debra Johnson 1,781
Mary Jo Tomasini 1,620
Barbara Norman 1,559
Bloomingdale Village President
Tom Rock 97
Bloomingdale Village Clerk
Stephen Strong 99
Bloomingdale Village Treasurer
Judy Little 99
Bloomingdale Village Trustee
Mark Jackson 89
Shirley Noble 82
Barbara Strong 82
Bloomingdale Village Trustee partial term
Justin Crawford 96
Breedsville Village President
Cherokee Thompson 27
Mary Harrison 14
Breedsville Village Trustee
John Dentzman 34
Linda Norton 28
David Sumner 28
Bangor Public School Board
Susan Bray 1011
Derek Babcock 1,006
Ruth Fuentes 918
Bangor Public School Board partial term
Elizabeth Finch 1,077
Bloomingdale School Board
Mark Harris 897
Mark Parsley 847
Tiim Remington 909
James Greene Jr. 864
Covert School Board
Cheryl McCray 278
Michael Dambrowski 277
Maria Gallegos 244
Covert School Board Partial term
Diana Parrigin 326
South Haven School Board
Laura Bos 2,109
Tyler Dotson 1,919
Bryan Lewis 1,821
Corey Davis 1,632
Bangor Wood School Board
Peggy Harden 21
Sharon Myrkle 19
State Proposal 14-1 hunting season for wolves
State Proposal 14-2 Authority to designate game animals
Van Buren County 911 Proposal
Bangor Public Schools millage renewal
Allegan County election results
In Casco Township, voters overwhelmingly approved a senior services renewal proposal, 675-236.
Voters in Glenn elected the following school board members: P. Kirk VanHorn, Scott Bruursema, Rebecca Gunderson and Lisa A. Stinson.
Republican incumbent Tom Jessup of Casco Township was re-elected to represent Allegan County Commission's fifth district.
Voters throughout the county approved a Headlee Override millage for special education programs at Allegan Area Educational Service Agency.
Allegan County voters also elected Republican candidate Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell as the new state representative for the 80th district; Republican Tonya Schuitmaker as state senator for the new 26th district, Republican Fred Upton as U.S. Representative for the 6th district and Democrat Gary Peters for U.S. Senator for Michigan.
Miss Bangor contest scheduled Sunday
Five high school students plan to compete for the honor of being crowned Miss Bangor 2015. This year's competition will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 9 in Bangor High School's auditorium. The Miss Bangor pageant will also include contests for Miss Jr. Teen, Miss Teen, and Mr. Bangor. The winner of the Miss Bangor and Mr. Bangor contests will compete in the regional Miss Blossomtime Pageant in March 2015 at Lake Michigan College in Benton Township. The Miss Bangor contestants are shown above: Front row from left: Kaylynn Woodard and Winter Ellis. Back row from left: Hannah Hiatt and Karen Ramierez. Alanis Melinger, who also is competing, is not pictured. Damonique Gallimore and Noah Shine are competing for the title of Mr. Bangor.
Police break up drinking party; arrest 10 minors
Ten young adults face criminal charges after Van Buren County Sheriff's Department broke up an underage drinking party, Sunday.
Police were called to the house party at 12:45 a.m., in the 47000 block of County Road 653, in Almena Township.
Ten minors were arrested an taken to Van Buren County Jail for minor in possession of alcohol; two for resisting and obstructing police officers, and one for assaulting officers. In addition, one of the subjects was also arrested for possession of marijuana.
The owner of the home where the party took place may be facing charges, as well, police say.
Paw Paw Police Department and the Michigan State Police assisted deputies.
A pedestrian walks along Kalamazoo Street in South Haven around 2:45 p.m. today as snow showers fall. (Photo by Becky Kark)
'Snow' much for pleasant trick-or-treating weather
Mother Nature has whipped up a wicked spell for Halloween weather.
Those who dare to trick or treat tonight will deal with wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour, unseasonably cold, damp weather and snow showers.
Yup, that's right, snow showers.
The ugly mix of rain, snow and wind has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a wind advisory until 2 a.m. Saturday morning for Van Buren County.
The winds are coming from the north steadily at 20-30 miles per hour and could gust as high as 50 miles per hour along Lake Michigan.
The National Weather Service has also issued a hazardous weather outlook for today and tonight for Allegan and Van Buren counties, due to the wind gusts and brief, heavy snow showers that could impact travel at times.
The Bangor boys cross-country team is shown from left: Ben Greiner, Carson Finch, Justin Smith, Alex Martinez, Marco Carrillo, Ishmael Hodge, Levi Cole
Bangor harriers head to state finals
The boys cross-country team for Bangor High School will compete in the Class C state finals, Saturday at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
“We should finish in the top 15 at state if we run up to our abilities,” said Bangor coach Brian Price.
The Vikings earned the opportunity to advance to the state competition after earning runner-up honors in the Class C regional this past Saturday.
“We finished about where we expected to,” said Bangor coach Brian Price, regarding the regional race. “I thought we had an outside shot at winning but we just didn't race well enough for that to happen.”
Justin Smith and Alex Martinez led the Viking thin clads at the regional meet, and collected all-region honors.
South Haven cross-country runner Craig Thompson also advanced to the state finals for Class B runners. That competition will be held in Brooklyn, as well.
Police seek public's help in locating stolen ATVs
Police are warning area residents to keep their valuables locked in garages following reports of two stolen ATVs.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies say the ATVs were taken during the night of Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 22-24 from two properties in Grand Junction and Geneva Township.
Deputies received the first complaint on Oct. 23 from a residence in the 07000 block of 51-1/2 Street in Columbia Township. They were told a red, Jianshe 250 was taken from the victim's yard. The suspects either pushed or hot-wired the quad and hauled it away, deputies say.
The following day, deputies received a second report of a dark green 2003 Suzuki Eiger taken from a home in the 05000 block of County Road 687. The ATV, which did not have a key in it either, was left in the yard and probably pushed away from the scene and possibly loaded onto a truck or trailer, deputies say. A power washer and commercial grade air compressor were also reported stolen from the residence.
Deputies have no suspects, currently, and are seeking information for the possible location of the ATVs and equipment.
There are no suspects at this time. If area residents know the location of the stolen ATVs and equipment they are asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at (269) 657-3101, Crime Stoppers 1-800-342-7867, Silent Observer (269) 343-2100 or their local police department.
PHOTO CAPTION: The photos of the ATVs that are shown are not the actual vehicles that were taken from the two residences. Police submitted them to give people an idea of what the vehicles look like.
Woman arrested in Bangor for drugged driving
A Grand Junction woman faces criminal charges after being arrested in Bangor for driving under the influence of drugs.
Van Buren County Sheriff's department received 911 calls from three citizens that the 47-year-old woman was driving erratically on M-43 Highway, Thursday afternoon. The calls initially came from locations along M-43 Highway near M-40 Highway, according to a sheriff's report.
Deputies, state troopers, and Bangor city police officers began to search for the driver to see if she was under the influence and to prevent anyone from being hurt. Deputy Rich Wallace located the driver's vehicle and stopped the woman for a traffic violation in Bangor. He noticed she was “acting strangely,” but found she was not under the influence of alcohol. Deputy Brian Matthews, a certified drug recognition expert, then determined the woman was driving under the influence of prescription pills and found a variety of prescription pills in her vehicle.
The woman was arrested and is expected to be arraigned in Seventh District Court for drugged driving charges.
Suspects face felony charges after marijuana dispensary raid in
Three suspects face felony charges after police officers raided a medical marijuana dispensary in South Haven.
Patrick A. Withrow, 50, of Millburg; Daniel L. Howley, 54, of Hartford Township, and Michael J. Donato, 33, of Watervliet were arraigned in Seventh District Court, Thursday. Withrow faces two felony counts for delivery/manufacture of marijuana and one habitual offender count. Howley and Donato both face one felony count for delivery/manufacture of marijuana.
The trio's arrests stem from a lengthy investigation into the illegal sale of marijuana at the UMed Dispensary, located in the Phoenix Square shopping plaza in South Haven, according to Det. Lt. Wayne Edington of the Southwest Enforcement Team.
“Dispensaries are illegal in Michigan,” Edington said.
In addition to raiding the UMed office in South Haven on Wednesday, SWET officers also obtained six search warrants for the UMed Wellness Clinic in Sister Lakes and at the homes of employees or related residences in Watervliet, Millburg, Hartford and Geneva Township. Consent searches were also granted at residences in Sawyer and Coloma.
Officers seized an estimated several pounds of marijuana and more than 200 marijuana plants and related grow equipment. Along with the illegal marijuana, Detectives seized 14 guns, cash, a vehicle, and other equipment. Officers expect additional arrests and charges to be brought in this case.
Motorcyclist suffers life-threatening injuries
A 43-year-old Marcellus man suffered life-threatening injuries Wednesday when his motorcycle collided with a station wagon in eastern Van Buren County.
The accident was reported to Van Buren County Sheriff's department at 6:30 p.m., on M-40 Highway, north of County Road 352 in Porter Township.
Initial reports indicated the victim was riding his motorcycle when it struck the side of a Subaru station wagon. When deputies arrived the man was unconscious and being treated by paramedics. He was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo.
The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation by the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office; however, speed is believed to be a factor.
Anyone with information about the accident is asked to call the shift sergeant or Lt. David Walker at the Van Buren County Sheriff’s office in Paw Paw.
AmeriGas propane customers to receive refunds, credits following company's settlement with attorney general
Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced his Corporate Oversight Division has secured more than $500,000 for more than 5,600 Michigan propane consumers to resolve customer complaints against AmeriGas concerning propane-pricing issues during last winter’s heating season.
AmeriGas has offices throughout the United States including ones in Hartford and Benton Harbor. This settlement marks a key development, according to Schuette, in his ongoing investigation into hundreds of consumer complaints related to propane pricing and delivery during the 2013-2014 winter season.
“Cooler autumn weather means many Michigan families are already anxious about upcoming heating bills,” Schuette observed. “I’m happy we can put money back into the wallets of hard-working families who paid steep prices to heat their homes last winter while already trying to make ends meet.”
In September 2014, Schuette filed a lawsuit against propane supplier AmeriGas alleging violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. AmeriGas is the nation's largest residential supplier of propane with service in all 50 states.
Affected customers will receive a letter from the Attorney General, and AmeriGas will make all reimbursements not later than November 1, 2014. Current customers will receive an account credit, while former customers will receive a check for all refunds exceeding any money still owed to the company. Additionally, up to one hundred AmeriGas customers with varied complaints will also receive $100 bill credits.
Finally, AmeriGas has agreed to offer all customers who are currently billed at market rates the opportunity to sign up for a locked rate for this coming winter without having to pay the usual $99 fee associated with enrollment in this program. Amerigas will also provide special discounts to customers who sign up under this program. For every thousand customers that participate, the estimated value to consumers is more than $100,000.
Last month, Schuette negotiated a settlement with propane retailer Ferrellgas, securing more than $100,000 in refunds and account credits to more than 600 propane customers. Together, the two settlements provide more than 5,600 Michigan consumers with a share in almost $700,000 in credits and refunds.
Woman mistakes county jail for bar
By JULIE SWIDWA
HP staff writer
PAW PAW — A Hartford area woman found herself behind jail bars this past weekend after police say she mistook the Van Buren County jail for a bar.
Police did not release the name of the 39-year-old woman, whose alcohol level they said was determined to be more than twice the legal limit.
The Van Buren County Sheriff's Department said it happened shortly after 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19 in the parking lot of the department's office on S. Kalamazoo Street in Paw Paw.
Deputy Robert Miersma said a car pulled into the parking lot where patrol cars are parked then was seen backing up, trying to convince a man, who turned out to be her boyfriend, to get back in the car.
Miersma said the driver smelled heavily of alcohol and appeared to be drunk.
After speaking with her, police found that she had just let a bar in town and turned into the jail parking lot, thinking she was at another bar.
Bangor council member seeks plea deal
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A Bangor city council member charged with a felony in September, plans to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
Lucas Koenig, 26, along with co-defendant Jamie Little, 38, of Bangor, is expected to plead guilty, Oct. 25 in Seventh District Court, on misdemeanor charges for receiving and concealing two Apple iPads that were stolen from a Bangor church in August, according to Van Buren County Assistant Prosecutor Jay Blair.
“(The reduced charge) was with the consent of the victims,” Blair said. “They (representatives of New Beginnings Ministry) asked that they (Koenig and Little) not receive felony convictions.”
The plea deal came about after Koenig's pre-exam conference this past week in Seventh District Court in South Haven.
Four people were originally charged in the theft of the computers. Keith Smith, 33, of Bangor, pleaded guilty, Sept. 29, in Van Buren Circuit Court on a felony charge for receiving and concealing stolen property. The fourth suspect is still at large, according to Blair.
If Koenig had been convicted for a felony he would have had to resign from the city council, according to City Clerk Kim Schmitz. However, if he is convicted of a misdemeanor, he can still remain. Koenig was appointed by the council in July to fill a vacancy created when Rosemary Insidioso resigned. His appointment will be up in May 2015, at which time he would need to seek re-election.
This year marks the second time Koenig faced felony charges. The first one came about in March when he was stopped by a Van Buren County sheriff's deputy for illegally carrying a pistol in his vehicle. By law the pistol should have been locked in the trunk of the vehicle, however, Koenig argued during a circuit court trail in September that the trunk did not work properly so he locked the gun in the vehicle's glove compartment. A jury found him not guilty of the felony, Aug. 27.
He then faced charges a week later for the stolen iPads.
South Haven Area Emergency Services firefighters battled a fire this morning in Geneva Township that destroyed a barn and extensively damaged two cars parked nearby. The fire was reported at 8:35 a.m. today at the barn on County Road 681 near County Road 380. No one was injured. Firefighters from Bangor, Columbia township and South Haven helped prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby residence. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services).
A rare sight — gas prices less than $3 a gallon
Gas prices that dipped below $3 this morning nearly eclipsed the rare sighting of a lunar eclipse.
For the first time in months, the price of an unleaded gallon of gas dropped to $2.99 in the South Haven area. Some gas prices are charging a little less.
An online website organization that tracks gasoline prices across the United States reported similar findings.
"We've begun to see retail prices eroding at a much faster rate in the last few days across a good portion of the country," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "48 out of 50 states saw average prices decline in the last week, with some of the largest declines in the Midwest, where more and more stations are slipping under the $3/gallon barrier. Motorists should be seeing continued drops in gas prices across much of the United States in the week ahead as gas prices catch up to the recent decrease in crude oil prices."
Since this past week, gasoline prices in the South Haven area and throughout Southwest Michigan are lower than the statewide average, according to GasBuddy.
Average retail gasoline prices in Michigan have fallen 9.9 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.29 per gallon, GasBuddy reported Sunday. This compares with the national average that has fallen 2.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.30 per gallon.
Man found bound and gagged in South Haven home invasion
South Haven Police are on the lookout for a suspect who allegedly robbed and beat a 70-year-old man in a home invasion in the 500 block of Center Street.
The incident was reported at 1:50 a.m. this morning, according to a report from the police department.
When officers arrived they found the victim bound and gagged in the residence. He was given medical treatment on the scene for injuries he incurred in the fight with the suspect. Police also said an undetermined amount of money was taken from the residence.
Police described the suspect as a white man in his 40s, approximately 6 feet tall and weighing 200 pounds. He was wearing a brown-colored heavy jacket with a black mask over his face. He also had a dark hood on his head and was believed to be wearing either green or light blue gloves.
Police say the suspect fled from the residence in an unknown direction of travel. Officers used a K9 track but still were unable to find the suspect.
Anyone with information regarding the home invasion is asked to call the South Haven Police Department, 637-5151.
South Haven man bound over to circuit court for cousin's death
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
A South Haven man faces criminal charges in Van Buren County Circuit Court in the death of his cousin earlier this year.
South Haven District Court Judge Art Clarke III ruled enough evidence exists to bind Woodall, 25, to the higher court for second-degree homicide while driving intoxicated, causing death.
Clarke made the ruling this past week following Woodall's preliminary exam.
Woodall is accused of causing a fatal crash on May 28 that killed his cousin, Jason Woodall, 25, on County Road 687 in Geneva Township.
Assistant County Prosecutor Jay Blair said Eric Woodall was following a pickup truck driven by his cousin Jason Woodall. When Eric Woodall's Chevy Blazer madae contact with the truck it caused Jason Woodall to lose control of the vehicle and crash.
Defense attorney John Frost argued unsuccessfully there was no evidence to support the second-degree murder charge. He did acknowledge, however, there was enough probable cause to bind over Woodall on the charge of driving while intoxicated, causing death.
The toxicology report showed Eric Woodall had a blood alcohol level of .13, more than the legal amount for a driver in Michigan, that night.
Eric Woodall's girlfriend at the time, Cassandra Hayes, 20, testified that Eric and Jason Woodall got into a fight shortly before the incident and that she got into Jason Woodall's truck. Eric Woodall then followed the truck.
Van Buren County Sheriff's Detective Lt. Mark McCulfor said Eric Woodall told him he followed his cousin's truck and "hit it to try to stop it," because he wanted to know why his girlfriend was in the truck.
McCulfor said Eric Woodall changed his stories several times while being interviewed by police. His initial story was that he rushed to the scene after getting a phone call about the crash, but then he later admitted he had been following the truck.
Woman dies from injuries suffered in car crash in Arlington Township
ARLINGTON TWP. - A woman involved in a crash in Arlington Township this past week has died from injuries sustained in the accident.
Nora Elizabeth Moore, 30, of Dowagiac, died this morning at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, according to Sgt. Daniel Abbott of the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Moore, along with two other people, suffered serous injuries in the crash that occurred at 12:30 a.m., Sept. 21 in the 47000 block of 40th Avenue.
Deputies say a 31-year-old Breedsville man, driving a 2014 Sonata, was traveling west at a high rate of speed on 40th Avenue when he allegedly lost control and struck a fence and a tree on the north side of the road.
The driver and two passengers, who included Moore and a 27-year-old man from Dowagiac, were all taken by ambulance to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.
The driver, whose name has not been released, sustained injuries to his neck and was originally listed in stable condition at Bronson Methodist Hospital. The 27-year-old male passenger from Dowagiac, whose name has also not been released, suffered internal injuries and was listed in serious condition at Bronson.
Deputies believe alcohol may have been a factor in the accident.
The driver may be facing criminal charges. The investigation conducted by the sheriff's department has been sent to the Van Buren County Prosecutor's office for review.
The photo above shows a mobile home in Arlington Township that caught fire this weekend.
Police, fire officials investigate suspicious fire
ARLINGTON TWP. — Police and fire officials are investigating possible arson of an abandoned mobile home.
Bangor Community Fire Department and the Van Buren County Sheriff's department responded to a report of a structure fire shortly after midnight, Sunday morning.
When they arrived at the home at 38474 46th St., the structure was fully engulfed in flames. Luckily, no injuries of firefighters was reported.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, however, it is being labeled as suspicious.
Paw Paw Fire Department, Lawrence Fire Department and Columbia Fire Department assisted Bangor firefighters in putting out the blaze.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at 269-657-3101.
South Haven girl
Police are seeking the public's help to find a missing 14-year-old girl from South Haven.
Nevaeh Cereane Gant was last seen Friday at Baseline Middle School. A seventh-grader at the school, Nevaeh did not ride the bus home after school and did not make contact with any family members nor friends, according to Michigan State Police Lt. Dale Hinz of the Paw Paw post.
Police describe Nevaeh as an American Indian female, 5’6” tall, 150 pounds, with brown eyes and very short black hair. She has her top lip pierced, both ears pierced and has her septum and nose pierced.
Anyone who seen or had contact with Nevaeh is asked to contact Van Buren Co. dispatch at 269-657-3101.
No confirmed cases, but county medical official believes enterovirus is making its way to Van Buren County
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
It looks like a number of children throughout Van Buren County are coming down with a respiratory virus known as enterovirus, or EV-D68.
“Although there are no confirmed cases the assumption is we have seen it,” said Dr. Frederick Johansen, medical director for Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. “I've sent in six specimens to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but they are backlogged. They told us last week we may get the results back early this week, but at this point we don't know if we'll get them back that soon.”
Enterovirus D68 is one of a number of non-polio enteroviruses that causes mild to severe respiratory illness, according to the CDC. Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and muscle aches. However, in severe cases, children, particularly ones who suffer from asthma, have to be hospitalized due to difficulties in breathing.
Wheezing is one of the major signs of people suffering from a severe case of Enterovirus.
Since August, hospitals in Missouri and Illinois have seen more children than usual with respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68, according to the CDC. Now other states are reporting similar findings.
From mid-August to Sept. 12, 97 people in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. But there's likely more that will be reported, according to Johansen.
“From a practical standpoint we're seeing more of it,” he said. “We're (doctors throughout the county) all seeing these kids who have never wheezed.”
Enterovirus was first identified in 1962 in California, but outbreaks haven't been common in the United States.
When there is an outbreak of Enterovirus it usually occurs in the summer and fall in the U.S. and usually affects infants, children and teens, in particular. In general, the spread of enteroviruses is often quite unpredictable, and different types of enteroviruses can be common in different years with no particular pattern..
“We're unsure why it's occurring, that's why the CDC is doing testing,” Johansen said.
The good news is that Enterovirus's symptoms usually go away within several days. However, there are no antiviral medications currently available for people who become infected with the virus.
To protect the spread of the virus, the CDC recommends people do the following:
Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
City in line to receive $1.5 million grant to improve wastewater system
South Haven city officials expect to have an additional $1.5 million to improve the municipal wastewater/stormwater system, thanks go a state grant.
The city is in line to receive a Stormwater-Asset Management Wastewater grant in October from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
The grant will be used to develop an effective way to reduce and hopefully eliminate the amount of E. coli bacteria that travels through the storm sewer system.
In the past three years, the city has been forced to close public beaches because of the elevated levels of E. coli.
With the grant, the city plans to develop a plan to improve its wastewater management system.
The SAW grant program allows communities to develop a long-term asset management plan for stormwater and wastewater utilities while lessening the potentially negative impact of these utilities on the environment, according to city officials. Further, the intent of the SAW Grant Program is to accelerate the statewide use of asset management planning practices as well as improve water quality. Grant recipients will implement the necessary construction for which grant funding is provided for any planning, design, and/or user charge grants.
Police seek help in locating missing SH woman
UPDATE: Andy'shae Shonique Crew was found safe in Kalamazoo Tuesday evening, according to South Haven Police
South Haven Police are asking for the public's assistance in providing information on a woman who has been missing since Sunday.
The 18-year-old woman's name is Andy'shae Shonique Crew, who may also be using the last name, Young. She is described as 5-foot, 7-inches tall, and weighs approximately 165 pounds. She was last seen on Lyons Street and may be now in the Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor or South Haven areas.
She is described as a “vulnerable adult” and was last seen getting into a gold-colored sedan. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to call police at 637-5151.
Bangor City Council member arraigned on felony charge
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — A Bangor City Council member has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of receiving and concealing stolen goods in excess of $1,000 but less than $20,000.
Lucas Koenig, 26, was arraigned, Friday, in Seventh District Court in South Haven after turning himself in to officials. His preliminary exam is scheduled Sept. 17.
Van Buren County Prosecutor's Office issued a felony warrant, this past Wednesday, to Koenig, along with three other individuals involved in the complaint. If convicted he could face up to five years in prison. The criminal warrant comes one week after a Van Buren Circuit Court jury cleared Koenig of illegally carrying a pistol in a vehicle in March.
His latest arrest warrant stems from the theft of two Apple iPad computers from New Beginnings Ministry, in the 26000 block of County Road 681, just north of Bangor, according to Sgt. David Walker of the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department. The theft was reported to the sheriff's department on Aug. 17.
Koenig's attorney, Sterlin Mesadieu, of Lansing, said his client did not commit a crime.
“He's innocent. He didn't do anything wrong,” said Mesadieu, who went on to say he thinks the issuance of the warrant so quickly after Koenig's acquittal is “very questionable.”
Three other people also have been issued felony warrants in connection with the theft, Walker said.
They include a 38-year-old woman, a 33-year-old man and a 43-year-old man. All are from Bangor. The sheriff's department did not release their names, pending arraignment.
The warrants are for receiving and concealing stolen goods. One of the suspects also faces a second warrant for larceny from a building.
Firefighters rescue puppies from burning porch
A Casco Township couple suffered a bittersweet day, today when an enclosed porch at their home caught fire.
The house at 7293 Baseline Road suffered smoke damage, but luckily, firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services were able to rescue the couple and their seven puppies who were trapped on the porch when it caught fire.
Firefighters believe an electrical cord on the porch caught fire, igniting the blaze that occurred at approximately 10 a.m., according to Fire Chief Ron Wise.
Home owners Justin and Rebecca Clark were evacuated safely from the home as were the seven six-week-old American Pit Bull Terriers.
“One theory is that a puppy chewed through the cord, but none of the canines is fessing up,” quipped Tom Renner, publicist for the fire department.
The couple should be able to remain in their home, according to Wise. “The damage was minimal to the home,” he said .”It's mainly smoke damage and some fire damage.”
PHOTO: Brandon Hinz, a South Haven Area Emergency Services firefighter, carries two puppies from a home that caught fire, Tuesday, in Casco Township. Firefighters safely removed seven puppies from the home at 7293 Baseline Road. (photo by Tom Renner)
Drawbridge renovation pushed back to Oct. 1
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven's north side residents will have one more month to travel across the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge before workers begin an extensive renovation of the structure.
City officials say the $2.4 million project will be pushed back to Oct. 1. Originally, workers anticipated starting the renovation immediately after Labor Day.
“The contractor (Anlaan Corp. of Ferrysburg) told us they have a few other jobs to complete and won't be able to mobilize until October,” city engineer Larry Halberstadt said. “But they don't anticipate that will affect the completion date.”
The new schedule for the project follows: The bridge will be closed to vehicles from Oct. 1-May 15, 2015. The bridge sidewalks will be closed to pedestrians from Oct. 6-April 20, 2015. The Black River channel will be closed to boats from Oct. 15-April 30, 2015.
North Side Memories, a grocery store on Dyckman Avenue, welcomes the work delay with open arms.
“You have no idea what it will do for us,” said Lu Barnes, a store employee. “Just to have the traffic open during what we hope will be a good fall season will make a big difference.”
Barnes and her husband Bill, have owned North Side Memories for many years, but this year they sold the business to longtime employee Jamie Cowell, who also said she is glad the bridge will remain open longer.
“That will be nice to have an extra month,” she said.
The bridge renovation project includes resurfacing of the concrete road deck, replacing the steel deck and sidewalks on the bridge span, replacing the bridge's electric and hydraulic systems, repainting portions of the structure and replacing traffic gates, signals and roadway lights.
In conjunction with the bridge reconstruction, the city plans to replace sewer and water lines along Dyckman Avenue, and repave the road between the drawbridge to North Shore Drive.
“We have collapsing sanitary sewers in that area that need to be replaced,” Halberstadt said. The city decided to undertake the project because the bridge will already be closed.
“It made sense to do it while the bridge is closed rather than waiting another year and closing the road again,” Halberstadt said.
The $1.1 million project will be paid for with funds from the street department and water and sanitary sewer departments.
Despite the inconvenience of the road and bridge project, Barnes said North Shore Memories will stay loyal to its customers throughout the winter and early spring seasons.
“We plan to stay open to service our north side customers,” Barnes said. “It's going to be a major process to improve the bridge and the road but we look forward to the completion.”
South Haven man faces criminal charges in cousin's death
A South Haven man is in jail with a $1 million bond and faces multiple criminal charges in the death of his cousin.
Erik Woodall, 22, was arraigned, Thursday, in Seventh District Court for second degree homicide, carrying a concealed weapon and drunk driving in a fatality, May 28, that killed his cousin, 25-year-old Jason Woodall, also of South Haven.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies have spent the past several months investigating the two-car crash that occurred on County Road 687 in Geneva Township and came to the conclusion that Erik Woodall intentionally hit the Chevy Blazer driven by his cousin, according to Detective Lt. Mark McCulfor.
“The investigation found that both vehicles were traveling southbound on CR 687 and there was intentional contact between the vehicles causing the crash,” McCulfor said.
The fatality occurred at 10:40 p.m. near 6th Avenue. When deputies and emergency crews arrived they found Jason Woodall trapped in his truck, which had gone off the road after being struck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, 20-year-old Cassandra Hayes was injured and treated at the scene. While EMS workers tended to her, Erik Woodall was observed at the crash scene. When deputies tried to interview him he became combative and was arrested for obstructing a police officer and the investigation. While at the scene, investigators found a 9 mm handgun in Eric Woodall’s vehicle.
Man arrested following single-car accident
A 31-year-old Hartford man faces several criminal charges are crashing his pickup, Sunday, in Lawrence Township.
Juan Benavidez was arrested for operating while impaired third offense; drive with a suspended license second offense; driving with no insurance; and for an outstanding bench warrant.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies became aware of the accident after received a call from an off-duty Hartford police officer.
Deputies say Benavidez had been traveling south on County Road 681 at a high rate of speed. When he attempted to turn east onto 72nd Street he lost control of his vehicle which crashed into a ditch on the north side of 72nd Street.
After submitting to a preliminary breath test, deputies found the driver's blood alcohol content to be three times above the legal limit. He was arrested and taken to Van Buren County Jail.
Man faces drunk driving charges
A Fennville man faces criminal charges are he was caught driving drunk near a busy intersection in South Haven.
Van Buren County deputies arrested the 29-year-old man for four counts of drunk driving with occupants less than 16 years old in his vehicle.
The arrested occurred at 7:45 p.m. at the intersection of Phoenix Road and Blue Star Highway, according to the sheriff's report.
The driver was originally pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. Deputies noticed the man smelled of alcohol and admitted to drinking before driving his wife and four children to a store.
The driver failed sobriety tests and was arrested. The children were put into the custody of their mother. Deputies forwarded a report to Child Protective Services regarding the arrest. The driver was also ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt and for a child who was not wearing a seatbelt.
M-43 roundabout pavement project extended to next week
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Repaving of the M-43 Highway roundabout in South Haven will be extended until at least Wednesday, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. The work was supposed to have ended by Saturday, Aug. 23, but Mother Nature got in the way.
"The contractor lost two days to rain," said Nick Schirripa, communications representative for MDOT, referring to Tuesday's severe thunderstorm and its aftermath.
The roundabout, as well as a six-mile stretch of M-43 Highway, between Blue Star Highway and 66th Street will remain closed until workers finish the project. Detour roads include 66th Street, 20th Avenue, M-140, Blue Star Highway and Phoenix Road.
Although the roundabout is only six years old, MDOT discovered soon after it was built that the base layer of its pavement did not meet the agency's standards.
Highway department officials could have waited several more years to repave the heavily traveled roundabout, but chose to complete the task this summer to coincide with a 6.5-mile pavement project along M-43 from Blue Star Highway to 64th Street in Geneva Township.
“It was added to the M-43 repaving contract to minimize the cost,” Schirripa said. “The cost to repair the roundabout as part of this contract is significantly lower than it would be if it was a stand-alone project.”
Rieth-Riley Construction Co., which Schirripa said, was not the contractor for the original roundabout project, is overseeing the $1.3 million M-43 Highway and roundabout repaving projects. The roundabout pavement accounts for approximately $150,000 of the total contract.
Half-brother of Oscar-winning actress charged in South Haven stabbing incident
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A South Haven man faces a preliminary exam in Seventh District Court after allegedly stabbing another South Haven man multiple times, Tuesday.
Stephen Angelo Simpson, 45, who WWMT-TV reported as a half-brother of actress Jennifer Hudson, was arraigned Wednesday at the courthouse in South Haven for attempted murder, first-degree home invasion and habitual offender 4th offense. He will return to court Wednesday, Sept. 3 for his preliminary exam.
South Haven Police say they were called to the apartment of Simpson's estranged wife at 2:25 a.m. in the Maple Glen apartment complex on Baseline Road in South Haven.
Officers found 31-year-old Charles Smith, bleeding, in the hallway near the apartment.
Smith, who was cut in the face, neck and chest, identified Simpson as his attacker. He was taken to South Haven Health System, treated with stitches, and later released.
“(Simpson) used a box cutter.,” said South Haven Assistant Police Chief Natalie Thompson, regarding the weapon. “That is the reason the victim didn't sustain life-threatening injuries. He was stabbed 15 times. It was bloody, but the cuts didn't go deep enough, which was fortunate.”
Thompson said Simpson, who has a history of domestic violence, had knocked on the door of 24-year-old Ericka Nicole Simpson's apartment. When Smith answered the door, Stephen Simpson forced his way inside. Mrs. Simpson escaped by locking herself into a bathroom.
“It appeared to be a love triangle,” Thompson said.
Simpson fled the scene after the stabbing, but turned himself in to police on Wednesday.
The stabbing incident ended up making international news because of Stephen Simpson's reported family link to Oscar-award winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.
“I happened to work late Wednesday night and had 25 phone calls from the media. It was unbelievable,” Thompson said. “Entertainment Tonight, CNN, People Magazine, Good Morning America...even the BBC. They seemed more interested in his relationship to Jennifer Hudson more than anything. I thought it was weird.”
Severe thunderstorm damages vehicles, homes; Leaves people without electricity
UPDATED WITH TIMES FOR ELECTRICAL POWER RESTORATION
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Sixty-mile-per-hour winds from a severe thunderstorm whipped through western Van Buren County, Tuesday afternoon, damaging homes and vehicles and leaving several thousand people without electrical power.
The storm occurred at approximately 2 p.m. and brought what appeared to be straight line winds that started along the lakeshore in South Haven and continued southeast toward Grand Junction and Bangor, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
Limbs from a willow tree crashed onto the top of a parked car in the 500 block of Monroe Boulevard, bleachers at Elkenburg Park blew over on the city's south side, tree limbs smashed part of home's roof top on 60th Street in Geneva Township, while strong winds bent a tall emergency dispatch tower in half in Grand Junction,
But, one of the most bizarre effects of the storm occurred at Black River Tavern in downtown South Haven when steady wind gusts shattered a large window while patrons dined.
“It (the wind) sounded like a plane hit the window,” said tavern owner Scott Maxwell. “I was downstairs at the time and ran up the stairs just in time to see the last of the glass falling....All of our (45 rpm) records blew off the walls. It was nuts.”
A patron happened to be sitting at a table next to the window when the thick glass shattered.
“She was shaken up but fortunately she wasn't hurt,” Maxwell said.
The tall, nine-foot window measured seven-feet wide, providing an excellent view of the harbor and lighthouse, but for now, the space will be boarded up until the damage can be repaired.
“Mother Nature and God acted in unison,” Maxwell said of the storm. “Nobody got hurt but she did her thing.”
Indeed, Mother Nature was not kind to electric customers served by Consumers Energy and Indiana & Michigan Power Co. Consumers reported nearly 2,000 customers without power in portions of Geneva Township and Columbia Township, while I&M indicated another 2,000 customers out of power in areas that it serves in Van Buren County.
“The winds were estimated at 60 miles per hour,” I&M spokesperson Tracy Warner said. “We used crews from other areas to help restore power.”
Electricity from both utility companies was expected to be restored by 4 p.m., today.
The South Haven area, served by South Haven Board of Public Utilities, also dealt with several power outages on Monday.
The hardest hit area from the storm appeared to be in the tiny town of Grand Junction, where trees and utility poles snapped like matchsticks on properties throughout the area.
“I was startled at all the damage,” said Grand Junction resident Sue Saran. “I was lucky I just had limbs down in the yard.”
Lack of electricity caused several store owners to hook up generators to keep the lights and cash registers working.
“We were without power for about an hour. So I had to go home and get a generator,” said John Daily, owner of the Marathon convenience store and gas station in Grand Junction, said this morning.
The local post office, which had a fallen tree nearly blocking its entry way, was forced to display a sign that read, “Due to the power outage we are unable to accept packages or do money orders...Cash or check only. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Just south of town, the Grand Junction Fire Department was suffering an issue of its own when a 100-foot tall emergency service dispatch tower bent in half, due to the strong winds.
Luckily, 911 service will continue for local residents, according to Fire Chief Dave Johnson.
“We will be getting dispatched off a backup tower in Hartford until ours is back in service,” Johnson said. “We are figuring on a month if all goes well.”
The storm's damage also kept CSX railroad employees busy. They spent Tuesday evening and this morning removing branches and limbs off the tracks located near County Road 215. They also had to switch on generators along the tracks to ensure train signal lights worked until electrical power was restored.
Photo: Bystanders peer into Black River Tavern, Tuesday afternoon, after strong, steady wind gusts, shattered a tall, nine-foot window. No one was injured from the incident. (Photo by Becky Kark)
Work begins Monday on M-43 roundabout; Road to be closed from Blue Star Highway to 66th Street
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Motorists will have to find roundabout ways to and from Kalamazoo next week when workers repave the M-43 roundabout.
A 6.5-mile section of M-43, between Blue Star Highway and 66th Street will be closed Monday through Saturday, Aug. 18-23, so contractors can complete the project.
Michigan Department of Transportation will detour M-43 traffic to 66th Street, 20th Avenue, M-140 Highway, Blue Star Highway and Phoenix Road.
The roundabout at Maple Grove Corners is only six years old, but needs to be repaved because its base layer of asphalt does not meet MDOT standards, according to Nick Schirripa, communications representative for MDOT.
“When the roundabout was first built in 2008, we learned a layer of the pavement failed after the project was completed,” Schirripa said. “There are three pavement layers - base, leveling and top - and the base layer failed.”
Schirripa said the contractor, whom he did not name, was penalized for the problem.
“We paid about half of the contract cost because of the failure,” he said.
MDOT could have waited to repave the roundabout for several more years, but chose to do it now as part of its project to repave M-43 between Blue Star Highway and 64h Street.
“It was added to the M-43 repaving contract to minimize the cost,” he said. “ The cost to repair the roundabout as part of this contract is significantly lower than it would be if it was a stand-alone project.”
Rieth-Riley Construction Co., which Schirripa said, was not the contractor for the original roundabout project, is overseeing the $1.3 million M-43 Highway and roundabout repaving projects. The roundabout pavement accounts for approximately $150,000 of the total contract.
6-year-old bicyclist hit by car in Geneva Township
A little boy luckily escaped injuries after a car hit him, Wednesday, at a mobile home park in Geneva Township.
The 6-year-old was riding his bicycle when a car, backing up at a high rate of speed, smacked into him, throwing him and his bike to the ground, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Deputies say the incident occurred at approximately 2 p.m. at Meadow Brook Mobile Home Park, 07120 68th St.
The driver of the vehicle, a 21-year-old Lawrence woman, faces reckless driving charges, while her two passengers, Shawn White, 27, of Bangor, and Derrick White, 26, of Bangor, were arrested for outstanding warrants.
The situation began when Shawn and Derrick White entered a home and were asked to leave the residence. When leaving, Shawn White broke out a window. The two men then got in the Lawrence woman's vehicle. She “gunned” the car in reverse, according to witnesses, and hit the boy on the bike. The woman's vehicle then left the park at a high rate of speed.
Deputies tracked the vehicle to a residence in the 40000 block of 48th Street in Arlington Township. They noticed that Shawn White had a significant hand injury from breaking the window. He was treated at Bronson Lakeview Hospital for the injury. He then was arrested for three outstanding warrants for assault, contempt of court and failure to pay child support. He also faces a charge for malicious destruction of property, for breaking the window. Police also arrested Derrick White for an outstanding warrant for contempt of court. Both men were taken to Van Buren County Jail.
Additional charges are also being sought with the Van Buren County Prosecutors Office against Shawn White and the 21-year-old female for their roles in the incidents at the mobile home park.
PHOTOS: Shawn White is in the top photo. Derrick White's photo is beneath it.
Woman, son survive unscathed after tree falls on their vehicle
A Paw Paw woman and her young boy escaped from their vehicle unharmed after a tree fell on it, Tuesday, on M-40 Highway.
The 29-year-old woman and her 1-year-old boy were driving in a pickup truck at approximately 6:45 a.m. in Pine Grove Township, when the large tree fell on the truck, blocking the entire roadway and shutting down traffic in both directions, according to a report from Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.
No one in the vehicle was injured, but the vehicle is believed to be totaled and not drivable, the report indicated.
With the help of several citizens and a chainsaw, deputies removed the tree from the roadway and reopened it for travel.
Plane crashes in Casco Township; Killing one person
UPDATE: Michigan State Police identified the pilot who died in the plane. His name is Craig Ewing, 45, of Hastings. He was flying a two-passenger, light sport airplane from Lansing, Ill. to Hastings. Police and the FAA are continuing to investigate the crash. No passengers were involved in the crash.
Police are trying to determine how a small plane crashed in Casco Township, today, killing one person.
“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is on their way right now to investigate how the accident happened,” said Michigan State Police Sgt. David Caswell, of the Wayland post.
Troopers became aware of the wreck when a citizen that lived near 109th Avenue and 68th Street called between noon and 1 p.m. to report the incident.
“They heard a noise and then saw debris falling from the sky,” Caswell said.
State police used a helicopter to locate the wreckage and found most of it near the vicinity of 111th Avenue, east of 68th Street.
Police found one person dead at the wreckage, who they believe is the pilot. They are investigating further to determine if anyone else was in the aircraft, which was described as a small-engine plane.
The name of the deceased is not being released, pending notification of family members.
Official results of 80th District House race released; Gamrat wins
ALLEGAN - Cindy Gamrat of Gunplain Township has officially won the Republican party's nomination for the 80th State House seat that will be available next year when Rep. Bob Genetski is forced to step down due to term limits.
The district covers most of Allegan County, except for a small strip on the northern edge.
Gamrat was the top vote-getter in a four-way GOP primary race. She won with 3,924 votes.
The vote counts for the other three candidates were: Mary Whiteford, Casco Township, 2,798; Stephen Schulz, Allegan Township, 2,462; and Randy Brink, Saugatuck Township, 427.
Gamrat will face Democrat Geoffrey Parker, Otsego, in November.
Gamrat likely winner in 80th district House race
Mary Whiteford of Casco Township had to settle for second place in the tightly contested Republican primary race for the 80th District House of Representatives seat.
Cindy Gamrat of Otsego appears to be the winner, according to unofficial results compiled by the Allegan County Clerk's office. She will now face Democrat Geoff Parker in the November election.
With all but one precinct reporting, Gamrat received the most votes with 3,591, while Whiteford tallied 2,528. The clerk's office experienced technical difficulties due to three different voting systems utilized in Holland, Allegan County and South Haven city, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette. The three systems did not mesh correctly, so Allegan County clerks have been stuck compiling results manually. The only precinct whose results have not yet been tallied is the portion of South Haven that is in Allegan County.
The other two candidates in the primary were Steven Schulz and Randy Brink.
Whiteford defeated Gamrat in Casco Township, Ganges Township, Laketown Township Precinct 3, Lee Township, Saugatuck Township, City of Douglas, City of Fennville, and City of Saugatuck.
Couple accomplishes rare feat at Beeches golf course
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
It's not every day that two people hit a hole-in-one on the same hole at the same golf course on the same day.
“No way,” said Aaron Mohr, general manager of Beeches Golf Club, 9601 68th St.
But that changed Tuesday when Grand Rapids couple Joel and Janis Carpenter aced the 17th hole on the back nine at Beeches.
“We get about a dozen hole-in-ones each year, but I've never heard of two people hitting the same hole at the same time,” Mohr said.
The Carpenters, who have golfed for 17 years, were equally surprised.
“I didn't think anyone would believe it,” Janis said.
But seeing was definitely believing for witnesses of the couple's feat.
“Most people never get a hole-in-one,” said Phil Rhoads, one of the witnesses.
Joel used an eight-iron and made the shot from 132 yards, while Janis shot her ace from the women's tee at 72 yards, using a gap wedge.
“I hit it first,” Joel said.
Not to be outdone, Janis ventured forth next.
“I came up to the tee and thought, 'now he's got one in and I don't.' You can tell I'm a little competitive,” she said, laughing.
Tuesday marked the first time the Carpenters golfed at Beeches. They did so as part of a week-long vacation in South Haven.
“It's a good course,” Janis said. “Very well groomed.”
Senior service millage approved in all but one township
With the exception of Keelerr township, the senior millage renewal in Van Buren County was passed overwhelmingly by voters in Tuesday's primary election. Voters also approved other millage renewals throughout the county. Here are the latest election results for county ballot proposals (with 91 percent of precincts reporting):
Michigan Proposal 1 (reduce state use tax)
Yes – 6,473 No – 2,054
Van Buren County ambulance millage renewal
Yes – 5,809 No – 1,745
Van Buren County public safety millage renewal
Yes – 5,497 No – 2,077
Van Buren County 911 service charge
Yes – 5,200 No – 2,360
Here are election results for Senior Service millage by municipalities:
Almena Township – Yes – 499 No – 144
Antwerp Township – Yes -724 No – 476
Arlington Township – Yes – 118 No – 34
Bangor Township – Yes 138 No – 57
Bloomingdale Township – Yes – 244 No – 66
Columbia Township – Yes – 194 No – 73
Covert Township – Yes – 184 No – 33
Decatur Township – Yes – 261 No – 65
Geneva Township – Yes – 242 No – 75
Hamilton Township – Yes – 103 No – 35
Hartford Township – Yes – 133 No – 50
Keeler Township – Yes – 108 No – 157
Lawrence Township – Yes – 224 No – 56
Paw Paw Township – Yes - 843 No – 163
Pine Grove Township – Yes – 210 No - 73
Porter Township – Yes – 167 No - 114
South Haven Township – Yes – 318 No – 61
Waverly Township – Yes – 179 No – 88
Bangor City – Yes – 73 No -14
Gobles City – Yes – 82 No – 23
Hartford City – Yes – 88 No - 37
South Haven City – Yes – 514 No – 103
Here are results for other millage elections in Van Buren County
Bangor Township road millage renewal
Yes – 114 No – 50
Columbia Township police protection renewal
Yes – 177 No – 8
Columbia Township road millage
Yes – 137 No – 128
Covert Township ambulance and fire renewal
Yes – 170 No – 37
Covert Township police millage renewal
Yes – 171 No – 38
Covert Township road millage renewal
Yes – 178 No – 39
Bloomingdale Public Schools operating millage renewal
Yes – 220 No - 123
Here are results for county commission elections (all candidates ran unopposed)
District 1 – Mike Henry - R, 627 votes
District 2 – Sue Hammond - R, 475 votes
District 3 – Richard Godfrey – R – 721
District 4 – Richard Freestone – R - 494
A crucial election
Senior Services of Van Buren County keeps close watch on Tuesday's millage renewal results
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
Most Van Buren County voters Tuesday will consider renewing the quarter-mill levy that brings in most of the funds for Senior Services of Van Buren County.
The four-year renewal is on the ballots in 22 municipalities throughout the county. Most of the municipalities have chosen to earmark the millage funds for Senior Services of Van Buren County, which operates three senior centers in South Haven, Hartford and Paw Paw, and satellite branches in other area of the county. However, for the past three years, Covert Township has chosen to divvy up its funds among several different agencies, including Senior Services. This year, two other municipalities — Antwerp Township and Porter Township, are also waiting until after the millage vote to determine which senior service agency they want to contract with.
Money it receives from the millage accounts for two-thirds of the budget for Senior Services of Van Buren County, according to Executive Director Jennifer Carver. Additional revenue sources include donations, grants and fundraising, she said.
Four years ago, the former South Haven Area Senior Services organization expanded throughout most of the county when it asked voters in most communities to approve the dedicated levy. As a result, it changed its name to Senior Services of Van Buren County.
"We have experienced significant community participation and growth," Carver said. "Millage funding has always been the foundation funding for this organization over the past 20 years."
Here is a breakdown of the estimated revenues that the levy would generate this year, if approved, in the following governmental units in the South Haven area:
Arlington Township, $13,618; Bangor Township, $14,800; Bloomingdale Township, $20,800; Columbia Township, $21,000; Covert Township, $164,744; Geneva Township, $20,450; South Haven Township, $31,500; Bangor city, $6,100; Gobles city, $2,500; and South Haven city, $77,100.
PHOTO: Jennifer Carver (right) executive director of Senior Services of Van Buren County, is shwon with advisory board member Dixie Capps.
South Haven weather buoy deployed
South Haven area boaters will be able to easily access up-to-date weather conditions of Lake Michigan, thanks to a new high-tech weather and wave monitoring buoy that was installed earlier this week.
The buoy was deployed Wednesday in Lake Michigan approximately two miles offshore of South Haven, according to Harbormaster Paul VandenBosch.
The new station will become part of a growing nearshore network of buoys currently deployed between Ludington and Michigan City, Ind. to increase boating and swimming safety along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Purchase of the sophisticated buoy was provided by a $50,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and contributions from local organizations will support annual deployment and retrieval costs.
The weather buoy will provide improved wind and wave observations for the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan in the South Haven area. The buoy measures wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, water temperature, wave height, period, direction, and also has a webcam. Real-time observations from the buoy are available freely to the public online at http://bit.ly/shbuoylink. A link to image and video clips, updated hourly, will be available at the top of the buoy page. Individuals can also receive the latest observations via text message by texting 45168 to (734) 418-7299. The service is free to use, however standard text message fees apply.
Similar buoys are located within the region near Ludington, Muskegon, Holland/Grand Haven, St. Joseph, Michigan City, and offshore in southern Lake Michigan. The South Haven buoy will fill a 70-mile wide gap in present buoy stations. The other stations are also relatively new and have only been deployed in the last several years. However, within that period, these nearshore buoy stations have become widely popular with boaters and the public and receive over 300,000 requests for observations each month.
The buoy will improve boating and swimming safety within the region by providing real-time, over water observations of present wind and wave conditions, city officials think.
Wind and wave data will assist the NOAA National Weather Service offices in Grand Rapids and Northern Indiana with predicting dangerous boating and beach conditions due to high waves and rip currents. In addition the observations will be used to check and improve the accuracy of nearshore forecasts.
A number of South Haven organizations have partnered together to support the annual deployment, retrieval, and maintenance cost and add additional sensors to the buoy. These include major contributions from the City of South Haven, Van Buren County, and Entergy Palisades Nuclear Plant. Other organizations supporting annual maintenance costs include the South Haven Yacht Club, South Haven Steelheaders, Tournament Trail 333, South Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau, Covert Generating Station, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, River Bend Boat Club, South Haven Kiwanis, and the South Haven Chamber of Commerce.
The South Haven Steelheaders are supporting the addition of a string of nine temperature sensors below the buoy to report water temperatures in real-time. WOOD-TV out of Grand Rapids is supporting the addition of a high definition webcam to the buoy to provide hourly images and video clips. Padnos Metal Recycling of Holland has donated two recycled train wheels to be used as the permanent mooring anchor for the buoy. The NOAA field research station in Muskegon, MI is supporting the deployment of the mooring anchor by donating use of its 80 foot research vessel, the R/V Laurentian.
Planning for the addition of the South Haven station to the buoy network began in December 2013 through a partnership between the South Haven Steelheaders, the City of South Haven, and LimnoTech, an environmental engineering company located in Ann Arbor, LimnoTech has worked with other local communities and businesses in the area to seek out grants and provide the technical assistance to acquire, deploy, and retrieve the high tech environmental monitoring buoys.
“Our experience working with the South Haven community and the Steelheaders has been phenomenal. The level of support we’ve received from local organizations and businesses quickly advanced this important public safety project from an idea to a fully funded reality in under six months. We received letters of support from 15 area businesses and organizations during the grant process.” said Ed Verhamme, Project Engineer at LimnoTech.
Mayor Robert Burr of the City of South Haven says the new buoy will be an asset for residents and tourists of the area for many years to come. “Given South Haven’s strong connection to Lake Michigan I am excited for the addition of this station to the regional buoy network. The City’s goal is to provide area boaters, swimmers, and water safety professionals with up-to-date lake conditions. Conditions on the big lake can change fast and we want everyone to be prepared when venturing out on the water,” Burr said.
PHOTO: The weather buoy is shown in Lake Michigan two miles offshore of South Haven.
Free wifi service now available in downtown South Haven
Wireless internet users will now be able to take advantage of free wifi service while in South Haven's downtown and at the city 's main beaches and marinas.
The wifi system allows wireless devices such as tablets, smartphones or laptops to connect to the internet. The City is working with Secant Technologies to design and install the system and Bloomingdale Communications will provide internet connectivity.
Free wifi service is now available in the downtown and along the Black River from the Michigan Maritime Museum to the South Haven channel. About 40 access points have been placed throughout the area. Bandwidth speeds will depend on distance from an access point and the level of use of the system. To access the service, select the Harbortown wifi access point, open a browser and agree to the terms of service.
The City's municipal marinas will receive upgraded service, which will be available to marina boaters throughout the downtown and on the beaches.
Mayor Robert Burr said, "The goal of the downtown wifi system is that everyone will be able to connect to the internet while they are enjoying our parks, downtown street cafe's and beaches. This is another way to make South Haven a fun place to visit".
For more information, contact Paul VandenBosch, Harbormaster, 269-637-0775 or email@example.com
PHOTO: A worker installs wiring for the wireless internet service that the public can use free of charge in downtown South Haven and at main city beaches and marinas.
Funeral services scheduled for woman killed in car accident
Funeral services are scheduled for a South Haven woman who died from injuries she sustained in a car accident.
Marilyn Laraway died following the accident that occurred July 16 on 56th Street near the town of Bravo in Clyde Township, according to death records. Her son, Michael, who was in the vehicle, was seriously injured, and was still in the hospital as of this morning.
No other details of the accident have been released by Allegan County Sheriff's Department.
Marilyn graduated from Covert High School and worked as a legal secretary for Attorneys Meyer Warshawsky, William Verdonk and George Dunn for the past fifty years.
Visitation will be held from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home in South Haven. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, July 31, 2014 with Pastor Mick Schmid officiating at the Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Haven.
Bangor area man sentenced for selling firearms without a license
A Bangor Township man has been sentenced in a federal court for selling firearms without a license.
David Rainey, 66, was sentenced to two years supervised release, with one year to be served in-home confinement following his felony conviction, said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles. Rainey, who lives at 23916 59 ½ St., was also fined $4,000.
U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff, who presided over the case, also ordered the forfeiture of Rainey's 71 firearms and 94,000 rounds of ammunition. As a convicted felon, Rainey is also prohibited from possessing firearms.
Rainey pled guilty to the charge on April 10. Selling firearms without a license is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The case resulted from a joint undercover investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
A year ago, ATF agents executed a search warrant, with the assistance of the sheriff's office at Rainey's farm, seizing 71 handguns and long guns, along with 93,770 rounds of various types of ammunition.
Rainey had owned and operated a gun shop called Dave's Place at his farm at 23916 59 ½ St. Following a felony conviction for embezzling from the Van Buren Youth Fair in 2009, he agreed not to sell firearms, and according to an interview he had with the South Haven Tribune in 2011, turned the business over to his son.
Funeral service set for J.C. Hartsfield, co-founder of popular touring band, Heartsfield
A South Haven man, who was co-founder of 1970s rock band Heartsfield, has died.
J.C. Hartsfield, 71, passed away Thursday, July 17 from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident, July 3, in Marcellus Township. Visitation is scheduled from 4-6 p.m., Friday at Filbrandt Family Funeral Home of South Haven. A memorial service will follow.
Cass County Sheriff's Department reported Hartsfield had been in critical condition at Bronson Methodist Hospital since the accident.
Hartsfield was traveling north on M-40 Highway north of Dutch Settlement Road at about 8 p.m. when he lost control of his motorcycle, went off the road and flipped into a ditch. Hartsfield was not wearing a helmet, police said.
He was flown to Bronson Hospital by an AirCare helicopter.
At the time of the crash, police said they believed alcohol may have been a factor in the crash. Upon further investigation, the sheriff's department said it was not.
Hartsfield and fellow guitarist Perry Jordan formed the rock group Heartsfield in 1970. The band toured extensively, performing with the Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac. One of their most recognizable tunes during the 1970s was “Music Eyes.” The original group disbanded in 1981 after releasing four albums, including “Wonder of it All” and “Foolish Pleasures,” but regrouped in 1999 by co-founder Perry Jordan. Since that time the band has released several more albums, according to its website. Jordan, however, died in 2011 following health problems.
Police investigate three daytime home invasions
Police are seeking the public's assistance in helping to solve three daytime home invasions that occurred Wednesday.
The break-ins happened at three residences in Columbia Township and Bloomingdale Township, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Deputies were first notified of a break-in when an elderly male, who lives in the 52000 block of 24th Avenue, called. The man told deputies at 2:47 p.m. he saw a full-size dark blue or black-colored SUV, pull into his driveway. At least one subject, possibly two, knocked at the front door of the home. When no one answered immediately, the SUV departed, and two subjects went to the back of the home, the man reported. The two suspects put on masks and stocking caps and forced entry to the rear door. Once inside, and confronted by the elderly homeowner, the two subjects fled east on foot. A canvass of the area found no evidence as to the identity of the subjects involved,
In the second and third home invasions, near 6th Avenue and 36th Street in Bloomingdale Township, the victims returned home to find their homes ransacked and items stolen. One homeowner reported two guns and three flat screen televisions were taken. Deputies believe these took place between 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at 269-657-3101, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-7867 or Silent Observer at 1-866-774-2345.
Tuesday morning's brief thunderstorm not only kicked up 4-8 foot waves on Lake Michigan, it also brought down a waterspout over Lake Michigan near South Beach..The waterspout was broken up before it got to shore. This photo was taken at approximately 9 a.m. by Kelly Weber. Waterspouts are a rare sight on Lake Michigan this time of year, according to John Kowalewski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Grand Rapids office. Waterspouts normally occur during the fall when the air temperature becomes cooler than the lake temperature. Yesterday's conditions were ripe, however, for a waterspout to occur. The lake temperature was 68 degrees, while the air was 60 degrees, accompanied by strong winds.
Gas price plunge expected to continue
Expect prices at the pump to continue falling for the next couple of weeks. At least that's what a petroleum analyst predicts will happen.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, says gasoline prices should go down an additional 10 to 20 cents per gallon in the next two weeks.
“Prices have been on an 18-consecutive-day streak where the current price was less than the price from the previous day,” DeHaan noted.
As of today, gas prices in the South Haven area hover around $3.36-$3.43 per gallon for unleaded fuel. The state average for today is $3.61 per gallon, according to GasBuddy's website.
SH school board plans to hire new high school principal
A high school principal from the Upper Peninsula may become South Haven High School's new principal.
Jerome Sardina, of Stephenson High School, in Stephenson, has been chosen the finalist for the job, which was vacated at the end of June by by Craig McCrumb, who has left South Haven to become new superintendent for Durand Area Schools near Lansing.
South Haven school board members will decide whether to hire Sardina, Wednesday during the school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. at South Haven City Hall, 539 Phoenix St.
In addition to his duties as high school principal at Stephenson, Sardina also serves as high school athletic director for the Class C school district, located in Menominee County.
The beach today is only for the brave...or the foolish
If you like going to the beach in July you might want to think twice about it, at least today.
This morning's temperature is a cool 60 degrees at South Beach and isn't expected to get much higher throughout the day. Coupled with a threat of thunderstorms and rip current warnings, it would probably be best to stay in your car if you venture toward South Haven's sandy beaches.
“The first part of this week will feel more like September than the middle of July, typically the hottest time of year, throughout the Midwest,” said Kristina Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist for accuweather.com
Some meteorologists blame the unseasonable cool temperatures on a polar vortex, which created one of the coldest winters on record in Michigan earlier this year. But other meteorologists say Super Typhoon Neoguri near Japan is the cause.
“During strong forcing by an extra-tropical transitioning West Pacific super typhoon, we often see a massive mid-latitude ridge build over western North America, favoring for a series of colder than average air masses to impact the major markets across the eastern two thirds of the U.S.,” WSI Weatherwise stated on its website blog.
Whatever the case, plan on wearing a jacket when you go outside, and keep an umbrella handy in case it rains.
Temperatures will warm up for the remainder of this week, but will still be on the cool side. Wednesday's forecast shows a high of 68 degrees with a shower in the afternoon, according to Accuweather.com. Thursday through Saturday, expect partly sunny skies. Thursday's high is expected to be 73, Friday's, 78 and Saturday, 80 degrees.
Emergency workers from South Haven Area Emergency Services are shown responding to a two-vehicle accident at CR 380 and CR 681, Friday, July 11. (Photo by Kelly Weber)
4 injured in collision near Breedsville
Four people suffered injuries this past Friday after a pickup truck collided with a semi-truck near Breedsville.
The incident occurred at 3 p.m. at the intersection of County Road 380 and County Road 681. Three of the accident victims had to be extricated, according to Ron Wise, fire chief for South Haven Area Emergency Services.
Ambulance from Pride Care and from SHAES transported the victims to South Haven Helath System.
“None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening,” Wise said.
Michigan State Police responded to the accident, however, o more information is available at this time regarding how the accident occurred.
Police investigate woman's death in Casco Township
Michigan State Police continue to investigate a suspicious death reported Tuesday in Casco Township.
“An autopsy is being done as we speak,” Sgt. Tom Brower of the Michigan State Police Wayland post said this morning.
Police say they were called to a home in the 300 block of 71st Street at 3:30 p.m. and found a 35-year-old woman dead in the house. Brower said the woman had been a guest in the home for the past few days.
WOOD-TV reported a man at the home was interviewed by police but was not considered a suspect as of yesterday. Brower said police are still working to contact the woman's family. More information about the incident is expected to be released later today.
Former church meets the wrecking ball, Wednesday
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A historic landmark that has anchored the intersection of Center and Huron Streets for 125 years will be leveled Wednesday.
Construction workers plan to start tearing down the former First Baptist Church at 7 a.m. Specialized Demolition Inc. of Hamilton, who was hired for the project, should complete it by the end of the day, South Haven city officials say.
While demolition occurs, the streets and sidewalks around the former church will be closed throughout the day and will reopen once the workers complete their job.
“The intersection closure will extend east to Hogan's Alley and north to the Masonic Temple/Murphy's Antique Mall. All private driveways will remain open during the road closure,” said Deb Davidson, director of the city's Downtown Development Authority.
The sidewalks on the east side of Center Street and the north side of Huron Street will also remain closed to pedestrian traffic, (but) sidewalks on the opposite side of each street will remain open, to facilitate access to businesses.
The former First Baptist Church at Huron and Center streets has had a long history in South Haven.
The town's early Baptists built the wooden structure in 1889. Its early officers at the time were such local notables as J.S. Malbone, C.E. Abell and L.S. Monroe.
Over the years, though, the congregation outgrew the aging church facility, and in the late 1970s constructed the current house of worship at 1635 76th St., in South Haven Township.
Ironically, the old church's exterior walls look much the same today as they did in the late 1880s. The original wooden siding was revealed when workers removed the asbestos lined shingles that covered the building in its later years.
The old church structure fell into disrepair over the years, prompting the city to condemn it in 2013.
Benton Harbor nonprofit organization Kinexus won a state grant to demolish the former church and 14 other buildings in Southwest Michigan.
Barry Story, who owned the building since 1999, had made attempts to rehabilitate the dilapidated structure. But the aging structure was apparently beyond repair, and he closed the auction business and put the building up for sale.
The other side of the 4th of July
City spends in excess of $20,000 on cleanup efforts after weekend celebration
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven's Fourth of July holiday celebration conjures images of fireworks bursting in air, a parade filled with marching bands, floats and antique cars, and an art fair's array of glass, jewelry and paintings.
But for city Department of Public Works employees and police officers, Fourth of July conjures up another image — the aftermath.
The city spends in excess of $20,000 to clean up beaches, parks and bathrooms, and that doesn't include the 50 extra police units from other departments that ensure crowd and traffic control following the parade and fireworks.
“It's non-stop,” said City DPW Operations Director Ron Dotson, regarding clean-up efforts.
“It takes 20 people to make sure the beaches and parks are cleaned up and open for the next day after the fireworks display,” Dotson said. “It's expensive to get done.”
When the fireworks display ended at 11 p.m., Thursday, July 3, police were ready to direct vehicles safely and quickly out of town. Then at 1 a.m., city DPW staff tackled the task of cleaning up the beaches and parks.
“Some people who looked at the beaches said they weren't sure we could get it done by 10 a.m.,” Dotson said. “It was amazing what they did to make sure it was spick and span for the morning. The parks department bears the brunt of the garbage.”
And garbage is something that wasn't in short supply over the holiday weekend.
“They emptied 230 garbage cans that we put in 6-8 20-cubic-yard containers. We went through 1,000-1,500 garbage bags. That was just for the fireworks,” Dotson said. “We had to get it done by 10 a.m. to open up the beaches and the bathrooms.” DPW staff then worked three different shifts to make sure garbage cans continued to be emptied and bathrooms stocked with toilet paper, towels and soap. Garbage bags, alone, cost $1 apiece, because they have to be large heavy-duty ones.
The efforts of the city appeared to pay off, especially for this year's weekend celebration that attracted a record number of people to downtown..
It's a lot of work for the city workers, police and fire department crews who stand by ready to ensure safety and cleanliness, but Dotson said it's worth it.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” he said.
PHOTO: Trash cans, like the one shown above at South Beach, were overflown with garbage following the Fourth of July fireworks display, Thursday, July 3. Photo by Becky Kark
The big bang effect
Fireworks ignite July 4th holiday weekend events in South Haven
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven's annual Fourth of July weekend celebration will ignite with a $34,000 pyrotechnics display over Lake Michigan.
This annual Light up the Lake fireworks display begins at 10:30 p.m., tonight. It will be followed by the Independence Day Parade at 11 a.m., Friday, and the South Haven Art Fair, Saturday and Sunday.
“We're shooting fireworks at $1,000 a minute,” quipped South Haven Mayor Bob Burr, regarding the annual 30-minute Light up the Lake fireworks display that attracts upwards of 25,000 people to town.
Many of the spectators come from Kalamazoo, the mayor noted. “It ends up being a record day for McDonald's in Bangor,” Burr said, regarding the town that is part-way between Kalamazoo and South Haven. “They stay open until 3 a.m. They used to close at midnight. Then they learned.”
Kalamazoo residents appear to enjoy coming to South Haven for the show.
“We've been rated the Best Fireworks Display in West Michigan by the Kalamazoo media for three years in a row,” Burr said.
Living up to that reputation isn't easy. First, it takes money. Each year, Burr canvasses businesses, organizations and individuals for financial support. “Palisades, Fleming Bros. Value Markets and Walmart are major sponsors,” he said. He also has turned his attention to second-home owners and visitors and found some of his financial support from Sally Newton of Shores Vacation Rentals.
“Sally charges an extra $100 for rentals during 4th of July week. She's raised $3,000,” Burr said.
The next component to a successful display is the selection of a pyrotechnics company.
“We use Melrose Pyrotechnics,” Burr said. The northern Indiana-based company has shot off fireworks displays throughout the world, including Aruba, Cuba, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, and closer to home, the 2012 Super Bowl, the Chicago Air & Water Show, and for Major League baseball games and national corporate events.
“Right after they get done here they go straight to Chicago to Navy Pier. (for Chicago's fireworks),” Burr said.
The third component to a successful display is choreographing it to music. Each year, Light up the Lake organizers turn to Paul Layendecker, operations director for 107.3 FM.
“I've been choreographing the show since it began 18 years ago,” Layendecker said. He begins the task in April when he chooses a theme and begins to pull ideas and songs together to match the music with the fireworks.
“Each soundtrack takes about six hours to compile and edit,” Layendecker said. “It is always a challenge to find songs that will represent the theme best and have enough of a beat and emotion to work with the fireworks.”
Once the music is chosen, Melrose staff take over. “Bob Kearns and his team listen and match the best fireworks for the music. They always work magic,” Layendecker said.
This year's theme will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
“To this day, America has never responded to any band like the Beatles and they're still an American favorite,” Layendecker said. But don't expect to hear just the Fab Four. “The soundtrack will feature Beatles songs covered by other artists like Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Phil Collins and more,” Layendecker said.
And the choreographer hasn't forgotten patriotic favorites. Of the dozen or so songs listeners will hear during the fireworks display, the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Stars and Stripes Forever,” will also be played.
If people want to hear the choreographed music during the fireworks, they will need to tune in to 103.7 FM.
Donations are still being accepted to help pay for fireworks. Checks can be made to The City of South Haven, with the notation, “fireworks.” Donations are tax-deductible.
Light up the Lake reminders
Marrone unveils new company in Bangor; Plans to employ 50 people
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — Pam Marrone, owner of Marrone Bio Innovations, still recalls the summer of 1967 when gypsy moths destroyed trees around her family's home in New Hampshire.
“I asked my mom what we could do to stop them and even though I was a child she had me write a letter to the USDA and they sent a brochure about integrated pest management (an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that causes the least possible hazard to the environment).”
Her recollection may not seem significant except that it may have planted the seed for Marrone's career in discovering and developing environmentally friendly products that control pests and protect plants.
Marrone and other company officials celebrated an expansion of their California-based company, Tuesday, when they hosted the grand opening of the new 11,600-square-foot Marrone Michigan Manufacturing plant, 700 Industrial Rd. The event attracted nearly 100 business, government and community leaders.
“We looked at 247 sites throughout the country,” Marrone said of the company's efforts three years ago to expand in the Midwest. A chance meeting with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, turned Marrone's attention to Bangor. “She mentioned a defunct bio-diesel plant, which was conducive to us because the utilities were already set up.” Marrone also liked the plant's location, which is close to Bangor's wastewater treatment plant, and the availability of scientific expertise from Michigan State University's agricultural programs. A $10 million loan backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program didn't hurt either.
“That will help us to expand our capacity and meet increased sales projections,” she said, pointing to land near the Bangor plant that is earmarked for future building expansions.
The $10 million is being added to the $56.4 million the company has raised to open its new Bangor plant.
“I think this is a real success story,” said Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. “Is is a real example of government working together,” he said referring to the assistance provided to Marrone by the City of Bangor, the Michigan Economic Development Commission and the USDA.
Marrone started production at its Bangor facility in April with 24 employees. It hopes to double that number at the end of the year by producing bio-based pesticides to protect fruits and vegetables from pests and diseases. They also plan to soon begin making a bio-based product to control invasive zebra and quagga mussels that have been a serious problem in the Great Lakes.
“It's exciting ...to see new bio-based products being manufactured that are supporting new jobs, helping our farmers and protecting our Great Lakes,” Stabenow said.
PHOTO: Pam Marrone, Marrone Michigan Manufacturing plant owner
Neighbors resort to gunfire to resolve dispute
A Geneva Township man has been arrested for felonious assault following an ongoing dispute with neighbors.
Daren Lee Clouse posted a $1,500 bond and now faces a preliminary exam, July 9, in Seventh District Court in South Haven.
The dispute occurred at approximately 10:30 p.m., June 25, at Clouse's residence at 61288 County Road 380, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's report. Deputies say several people were standing at the end of the driveway when Clouse exited a camper trailer on the property, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, and fired four shots over the heads of people at the end of the driveway.
A woman, whose name is being withheld, then pulled a 9mm handgun from her waistband and fired several shots into the ground in self-defense. She may face charges of reckless discharge of a firearm. People involved in the dispute allege Clouse pointed his shotgun directly at two of the subjects during the dispute.
ALDI's hosts job fair for new South Haven store
With construction of the new ALDI store underway on 73rd Street in South Haven Township, company officials are now turning their attention to hiring 10-15 employees for it.
ALDI's plans to hold a job fair, Thursday, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. at Baymont Inn & Suites, 1555 County Road 388, in South Haven. The store is scheduled to be open in the fall.
The company is seeking store associate and shift manager applicants. Store associates will be paid $10.50 an hour, while shift managers will be paid $15.25 per hour. Applicants must be 18 years or older; possess a high school diploma or GED, be able to work between 6 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Sunday; and be able to lift at least 45 pounds. Retail experience is preferred. Applicants will also have to undergo drug screening and background checks. Staff who work at least 20 hours a week will receive full health and dental insurance and 401K benefits.
Suspect attempts to rob man near South Beach
A Muskegon man is in jail today after attempting to hold up a man in South Haven, Sunday evening.
The victim, whose name is not being released, was walking on Water Street near Maple Street at 11:47 p.m. when a 23-year-old black man demanded money, according to a South Haven Police news release. The suspect, whose name is not being released until arraignment, implied he had a gun and threatened to shoot the victim in the head.
The victim noticed a police car a short distance away and got the officer's attention. The officer arrested the suspect without incident.
Police say the suspect also is wanted for auto theft in Muskegon County. He is currently lodged in Van Buren County Jail without bond.
Covert hires new police chief to succeed longtime chief Rick Winans who is retiring after 40 years of service
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
COVERT — After a three-month search, Covert Township Board has hired a new police chief to replace Rick Winans, who is retiring after 40 years of service to the municipality.
Township board members, Friday, inked a one-year contract with Covert Police Officer Jay Allen to succeed Winans, whose last day on the job is June 30.
“He was the best candidate,” said Township Supervisor Barbara Rose. “He's done a lot for this community. We're looking forward to working with him.”
Winans was also pleased with the township board's choice. “He's worked on all our cold cases and solved them. He's a good investigator,” Winans said.
Allen begins his new duties, July 1, and will be paid $57,000. The new police chief, who has been with Covert Police Department for 14 years, was chosen from nine applicants.
“We interviewed seven of the candidates,” said Township Clerk Dennis Palgen. “We didn't interview the remaining two because they did not have the qualifications necessary for the job.”
Allen will be in charge of a department that has six officers.
He appealed to the township board because he is fluent in both English and Spanish, according to Rose.
In the past 10 years, Covert's Latino population has grown significantly. More than one-third of the township's population is now Latino. A number of them are not fluent in English. Having a police chief who can speak Spanish will prove to be an asset, according to Rose.
In honor of Winans' years of service to the township, the township board is hosting an open house for him from 2-5 p.m., Saturday, July 12 at Jerry Sarno Community Center, 78085 County Road 378 West, in Covert.
Winans has served on the Covert Police Department since 1975. He first started as an officer and then became chief in 1981.
'Zelephant' trumpets start of Waterfront Film Festival, Thursday in South Haven
Whimsical mural located on Quaker Street, downtown
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
What do you get when you cross an elephant with a zebra?
A zelephant. And it happens to be the name of the outdoor mural being created by world-famous muralist Ron English for South Haven as part of the Waterfront Film Festival.
English with the help of his wife, Tarssa, and several other volunteers worked between rain showers Wednesday to create the new mural that depicts the “zelephant.” They hope to complete it Thursday for the opening of the festival that brings 80 independent films to South Haven, along with musical entertainment and guest star appearances.
Waterfront Film Festival organizers invited English to create the mural, hoping to jump-start an annual street art celebration that will attract other muralists to South Haven.
“A zelephant is one of those beautiful objects of whimsy,” said Tarssa. “What if you mesh two images your familiar with into one? It (the mural) tricks the eye. It makes a whimsical image that everyone can relate to.”
Ron English originally had wanted to create a mural of Waterfront's 2014 poster, which he also created, however, the building wall at 503 Quaker Street, where the mural is being painted was not suitable. The poster was vertical in shape, while the wall is more of a horizontal shape.
So, English came up with “Zelephant.”
“Actually, if you look at the wall (which has stucco pattern), it almost resembles an elephant's skin, which is why it seems so perfect for this mural,” Tarssa said. “It's an example of working with what you have...When it's done, (Zelephant) will look very lifelike.”
Waterfront Film Festival: Filming of music video, actor appearances and creation of mural are all part of the fun
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Expect more than film screenings when the 16th Waterfront Film Festival returns to South Haven, Thursday-Sunday.
Aside from showing more than 80 independent movies and short films, the festival will also debut an outdoor mural created by world-famous artist Ron English and the opportunity for local residents to be featured in a music video.
It's all part of the festival's vision to become a celebration of the visual arts, according to Waterfront co-founder Hopwood DePree.
“We talked about having a street art festival last year as part of the film festival,” DePree said. “We're starting small with one mural...It's a step toward a bigger event with other mural artists.”
English's mural will be painted on the side of a building on Quaker Street where the Waterfront Film Festival ticket office is located.
“It's not a huge space, but it sure is an honor to have a Ron English mural in South Haven,” DePree said of the artist whose paintings are located on buildings throughout the world.
While English begins to create his mural, California singer Tony Ferrari plans to film a new music video of his song, “South Haven Girls,” during Waterfront's opening night party, Thursday, on South Beach.
“He'll offer the chance for spectators to be in the video, including some who may be featured on screen,” said festival publicist Patrick Revere.
“South Haven Girls” is one of the tunes on Ferrari's recently released album, “Gentleman,” which ranked within hours of release on the Top 50 Pop Albums chart on iTunes, according to Revere.
Ferrari said he was inspired to pen “South Haven Girls” after he performed at Waterfront Film Festival last year. The song's lyrics include images of Broadway Street, The Depot caboose and Dyckman Avenue drawbridge.
But the heart of Waterfront Film Festival is the dozens and dozens of independent movies that will be shown at the Michigan Theater, Foundry Hall and Listiak Auditorium.
“We have a lot of people coming in,” DePree said regarding the actors, directors and producers that will be on hand during film screenings. Actors Jason Ritter (Parenthood TV show) and Melanie Lynskey (Two-and-a-half Men TV show) are just two of the stars who plan to talk about independent film projects they are involved with. Others include Eddie Jamison (Ocean's Eleven), Blake Robbins (The Office), David Lascher (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Blossom), and Christine Elise (Child's Play 2, ER),
“We have a lot of people coming in,” DePree said. “There will be a lot of recognizable actors and lots of filmmakers. There's a lot of great energy coming to South Haven from Los Angeles and New York. People heard what a great town it is and they want to come.”
Films to be screened at this year's festival have been created by and star such notable Hollywood names as Richard Dreyfuss, Barbara Hershey, Jason Priestley, Richard Moll, Mercedes Ruehl, Annie Potts, Robert Forster, Michael O’Keefe, Elias Koteas, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Jane Seymour and Virginia Madsen.
“We keep seeing an influx of people making their own films,” DePree said, explaining that technological advances in film-making have made it more affordable and easier for filmmakers to make and market their own movies. “Whether they're low-budget or high-budget, the option of making your own film, and seeing it happen from start to finish has opened a lot of actors' eyes.”
The increased interest in independent film-making and the festival's second year in South Haven may also have contributed to the increased interest from actors in coming to this year's event.
“This year is second time in South Haven so it's much easier because we're familiar with the venues and there's a lot more volunteer help and support,” DePree said, giving credit to new volunteer coordinator Amy O'Sullivan. “Anytime you do something the first time it's much more tricky.”
Volunteers are still needed for the festival. Area residents or organizations interested in volunteering or becoming a festival sponsor, can visit the website, www.waterfrontfilm.org or stop by the film festival's office, 503 Quaker St.
PHOTOS: JASON RITTER AND MELANIE LYNSKEY
Waterfront Film Festival announces opening night entertainment; Evening includes filming of music video for the song, "South Haven Girls"
A mix of music and films will greet spectators who attend Waterfront Film Festival's Opening Night Summer Homecoming Party.
The fun gets underway at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 12 at South Beach, and includes entertainment by “The Bachelorette” contestant Bradley Wisk, California singer Tony Ferrari, who has released the song, “South Haven Girls,” and screenings of popular independent mini films.
“The level of talent and the mix of musical styles at this year’s opening night party are certain to create a high level of energy on South Beach, providing a great kickoff for Waterfront Film Festival in its 16th year,” festival co-founder Dori DePree said.
Wisk, an acclaimed operatic tenor, will share the stage with Ferrari, who will kick off his international tour at Waterfront Film Festival.
“Wisk is hailed by critics and has been described as having an 'alluring rich color and exceptional spinning stratospheric top notes,” said Patrick Revere, publicist for the film festival.
The 22-year-old Ferrari’s recently released album “Gentleman” ranked within hours of release on the Top 50 Pop Albums chart on iTunes.
Among his new tunes is a song called “South Haven Girls”, which he wrote upon reflection of his time at Waterfront Film Festival last year. His new music video for the track will be filmed during the outdoor live performance at Waterfront Film Festival’s Opening Night Summer Homecoming Party, offering the chance for spectators to be in the video, including some who may be featured on stage and on screen.
Other musical acts include the Grand Rapids-based bands of Alexis and Valentiger, Alexis's songs blend a mix of retro electro pop and jazz, while Valentiger is a throwback in Americana music, reinventing the sounds of the '60s, with lyrics derived from contemporary ideals and experiences.
After the musical entertainment, the audience can settle in for a viewing of short, independently produced films presented on a large, outdoor screen.
Once the opening night party ends, the festival's main attraction — screenings of 80 independent films and guest appearances by actors, directors and producers — will get underway Friday-Sunday, June 13-15 at venues in South Haven.
Advance tickets for the opening night party are $10 at www.WaterfrontFilm.org and at the ticket office, 503 Quaker St.. Gate entry the day of the event will be $12.
PHOTOS: Tony Ferrari (top) and Alexis musical group
Bangor company plans expansion, thanks to federal loan program
A Bangor company will receive a $10 million boost in funding, thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA has approved the $10 million loan to Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. through its Guaranteed Loan program. Marrone plans to use the money to expand its manufacturing plant on Industrial Drive in Bangor's industrial park
The company began production late last year, in Bangor. The loan will allow it to move ahead with a planned expansion, according to company spokesperson Julie Versman, who estimated the expansion will add 30-50 more employees at the Bangor plant.
Marrone is headquartered in Davis, Calif. The biotech company produces natural pest control products for the agricultural and water treatment markets. Bangor is host to its first plant.
Company officials earlier said they were planning to invest $32 million into the Bangor plant, which is in a former biodiesel plant..
In a news release, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the Marrone Bio loan package is a good example of what the loan program can accomplish.
“This program is a prime example of how USDA helps local businesses have far-reaching payoffs, including the production of innovative products that are made in rural America and sold around the world,” Vilsack said.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairperson of the Senate committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry said, “I first met with Marrone Bio Innovations a few years ago and strongly urged them to come to Michigan, because we are leaders in bio-based manufacturing, an area poised for growth. (Wednesday's) announcement is welcome news and will help this innovative company expand its operations and create new, high-tech jobs in Southwestern Michigan.”
— Andrew Lersten of the Herald-Palladium contributed to this story
Motorcyclists killed on M-40 Highway
ALLEGAN — A Holland area couple died Sunday when a vehicle crashed head-on into their motorcycle on M-40 Highway in Allegan Township.
Robert John Kammeraad, 69, and Susan Mae Kammeraad, 66, died after being hit by a vehicle driven by a 23-year-old woman from Grand Haven, according to an Allegan County Sheriff's news release.
Deputies say the woman from Grand Haven was southbound on M-40 when she failed to see vehicles that had stopped for a car making a left-hand turn. Trying to avoid the stopped traffic, the woman swerved into the on-coming lane of the Kammeraads, who were headed north. The couple had been wearing helmets at the time of the crash.
The driver of the car, as well as two of her passengers, were taken to Butterworth Hospital and Allegan General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The vehicle occupants had been wearing seat belts when the crash occurred.
The crash remains under investigation and the car driver's name is being withheld pending further investigation.
Police seek public's help in identifying suspect
Allegan County Sheriff's Department is seeking the public's assistance in identifying a person involved in a break-in at a convenience store near Plainwell.
The white man, who was caught on a video surveillance camera in the Third Base Convenience Store, is shown with short-cropped brownish-reddish hair, and was wearing jeans and a purple T-shirt.
A news release stated that alcohol and cigarettes were taken from the store, at 595 10th Street in Gun Plain Township. The crime occurred around 1 a.m., Monday, May 26. Deputies were alerted to the scene after the store alarm went off and a witness observed the front door glass shattered. Deputies believe the suspect left the premises in a dark-colored SUV, possibly a Ford Explorer.
Detectives with the Allegan County Sheriff's Office are asking for assistance in identifying the subject. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Detective in charge of the case at 269-673-7163 or the sheriff's office at 269-673-0500
South Haven man dies in car crash
Funeral services are scheduled Tuesday for a 25-year-old South Haven man who died in a car crash, Wednesday evening, on County Road 687 in Geneva Township.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies say Jason Woodall was traveling south on CR 687 near 6th Avenue when he apparently lost control of his 1995 Dodge Ram pickup. It rolled over, trapping him inside. When deputies arrived at 10:40 p.m., he had died from his injuries. A passenger in his vehicle, Cassandra Hayes, 20, of Bangor, suffered injuries, as well, and was treated at the scene.
While deputies were interviewing Hayes, another subject, a 21-year-old man from South Haven, became combative with emergency staff and officers. He also had been driving a vehicle that was southbound on CR 687 at the time of the crash. Deputies arrested the man for obstructing a police officer and the investigation.
However, it is not yet known if the man's vehicle was involved with the accident. Deputies are still continuing to investigate the crash. Anyone with information about the circumstances involving the fatality are asked to call the sheriff's office at 269-657-3101, Silent Observer or Crime Stoppers.
Friends of Blue Star Trail receives $25,000 grant
A group that is raising funds to create a 20-mile bike path from South Haven to Saugatuck received a boost in revenue, thanks to a grant from Consumers Energy Foundation.
Friends of the Blue Star Trail received a $25,000 grant from the foundation to help in construction of the bike path. The foundation also awarded a $25,000 grant for the Calhoun County portion of the Great Lake to Lake Trail.
Friends of the Blue Star Trail will use the funds to help construct a two-mile section of the off-road trail this year. The two-mile section will begin in South Haven and extend northward along Blue Star Highway.
Fundraising has been going well for the Friends. Board President Jeanne Van Zoeren recently announced the group exceeded Phase II goal of its Campaign for the Blue Star Trail, by raising over $140,000 in approximately five months. These matching funds qualified for a $355,000 federal grant that will be used for the 2014 construction project.
On-going fundraising activities are expected to generate additional matching funds with which to qualify for additional national and state grants. Donations can be made to the Campaign for the Blue Star Trail through the Allegan county Community Foundation.
Consumers has made a point in the past several years to help fund construction of recreational trails throughout Michigan. With the latest donations, Consumers has donated $238,000 to 18 trail projects across the state's lower peninsula.
“We are committed to promoting Michigan residents’ health and quality of life, and to promoting Pure Michigan as a tourist destination,” said David Mengebier, president of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “We have supported the development of 18 trails from the Mackinac Bridge to the Indiana line because they make Michigan a more attractive place to live and work.”
Police continue to investigate bomb threat
South Haven Police are sifting through video and audio tapes today at Baseline Middle School in an effort to find out who made Tuesday's bogus bomb threat that forced the evacuation of students and staff.
Police and bomb-sniffing dogs from the Michigan State Police and Berrien County Sheriff's Department spent nearly four hours, Tuesday, searching the exterior and interior of Baseline School and found no explosives.
School officials had received a written threat shortly before noon announcing that a bomb was set to go off at a predetermined time, according to Natalie Thompson, deputy chief of police. Officers went to the school and assisted school staff in taking students to North Shore Elementary School, nearby. Police then began searching the premises for the bomb and cleared the scene at approximately 4 p.m., Tuesday.
Anyone with information about the bomb threat is asked to call the police department at 637-5151.
South Haven Police Officer Shawn Olney talks with a pedestrian at the entrance of Baseline Middle School this afternoon. The school was evacuated at lunchtime due to a bomb threat.
Students evacuated from school after bomb threat made
Students at Baseline Middle School were evacuated to a nearby school building today when the school received a bomb threat. The threat occurred at lunchtime, according to Shawn Olney of the South Haven Police Department. Pupils were immediately evacuated to North Shore Elementary School, which is located next to Baseline. Parents were notified of the situation and picked up their children at the elementary school at the conclusion of the school day. South Haven Police, along with bomb-sniffing dogs from Berrien County Sheriff's Department and Michigan State Police are still at Baseline Middle School searching the building and grounds. Police are not releasing further details at this time.
Beach town kudos
South Haven named Top 10 tourism destination for regional travel
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven won accolades in 2013 for being Yachting Magazine's top 10 boating towns in the world. Now, it has another feather to put in its cap.
Just Energy Group Inc., an energy supplier based in Ontario, Canada and Houstan, Texas, has named the town one of its Top 10 Memorial Day destination for day trippers.
The honor pleased Lisa Shanley, executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Because Memorial Day Weekend has always been the official kickoff of the summer tourism season in Michigan, this article gives our area a nice boost coming out of the gate,” she remarked.
Just Energy, which advocates eco-friendly energy, decided to put together the list to tell its customers they don't have to jet-set to an exotic location to enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend.
“We started by focusing on major metropolitan areas and searched for the best beach towns within 250 miles. Everything we chose was bicycle-friendly, clean, family friendly and not too crowded,” said Paul Batistelli of Just Energy.
“We chose South Haven because of its proximity to Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis, making it a central location for a large number of people. In addition to its unique features, such as the 100-year-old lighthouse and the Michigan Maritime Museum, we love that South Haven is bicycle friendly, has easy access to the beach and is full of quaint B&Bs and historic inns. It's the perfect little beach getaway.”
Other towns chosen for the “Best One-Tank Beach Trips for Memorial Day,” include Provincetown, Mass.; Fire Island, NY: Bethany Beach, Delaware; Kiawah Island, SC; Anna Maria Island, Fla.; Port Arkansas, Texas.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Pacific Grove, Calif.; and Westport Beach, Wash.
In selecting South Haven, Just Energy wrote, “With no shortage of water, South Haven is a quaint little beach town worth visiting during your long weekend. Not only is the town divided by the Black River, you’ll have your pick of seven city beaches.
“Carve out your own piece of paradise on South Haven’s sandy shores or walk out to the 100-year-old lighthouse at the end of South Beach Pier. Don’t forget to take in the lively farmer’s market on Saturday morning and catch the Memorial Day Parade on Monday at 9 a.m., (May 26).”
The link to Just Energy's “Best One-Tank Beach Trips for Memorial Day follows: http://www.justenergy.com/blog/best-one-tank-beach-trips-for-memorial-day/
PHOTO: Sheryl Kaptur photographed a little girl playing on South Beach. Behind her is South Haven's South pier, catwalk and lighthouse.
KitchenAid and Organic Gypsy Food Truck Tour makes stop in South Haven
KitchenAid is partnering with the Organic Gypsy, a locally-sourced food truck based in Kalamazoo, for a month-long mobile tour throughout Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana to raise awareness for its presenting sponsorship of the 75th Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.
South Haven is one of nine appearances the mobile food truck tour will make throughout Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana. The truck will be at the South Haven Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-noon, this Saturday.
• The Organic Gypsy will be serving lunch dishes such as spring rolls, wraps, tacos and organic root beer
• KitchenAid will give away a free Stand Mixer, its legendary countertop appliance, to one lucky winner at each tour stop
• The PGA of America will be offering discounted tickets to the Championship, May 22-25, and giving fans an up-close view of the historic Alfred S. Bourne trophy
Waterfront Film Festival unveils lineup for 2014 event
By TRIBUNE STAFF
Independent films starring Jason Ritter, Barbara Hershey, John Heard and Richard Dreyfuss headline the upcoming 2014 Waterfront Film Festival in South Haven.
“Waterfront’s selection committee has been working hard to put together a fun, diverse lineup of fantastic films that will offer something for everybody,” said Festival co-founder Hopwood DePree. “Many film directors and actors will be traveling to West Michigan to show their new movies at the festival and meet the audiences. This is always my favorite time of year as Waterfront Film Festival is a perfect kick-off to summer.”
Now in its 16th year, the film festival is scheduled June 12-15 at venues throughout South Haven, including the Michigan Theater and Listiak Auditorium.
More than 80 films will be featured in this year's event, including 21 Midwest premiers and 13 Michigan premieres that include award-winning documentaries and narrative features. Many of the films set to screen in South Haven will have producers, actors, directors and writers in attendance and participating in Q&A sessions following each screening. Tickets for the movies are available online at www.waterfrontfilm.org or at the festival office, 503 Quaker Street, downtown.
“Waterfront Film Festival has a tradition of showcasing films to the Midwest that go on to great success, including 'Man On Wire,' 'March of the Penguins,' 'Queen of Versailles,' and 'Napolean Dynamite,' and last year’s 'Muscle Shoals' and 'Blackfish,'” said Patrick Revere, festival publicist.
This year marks the second time that the film festival will take place in South Haven. Originating in Saugatuck, Waterfront Film Festival is considered one of the leading destination film festivals in the Midwest. It regularly hosts Midwest premiers of Academy Award-winning and nominated documentaries. It is now recognized as a top-film festival that is committed to creating a “middle coast” venue for independent filmmakers while enhancing the cultural draw of West Michigan.
Here is a sample of some of the films that will be shown at this year's festival:
• Midwest Premiere of “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger.” Oscar-nominee Joe Berlinger’s latest documentary film begins when James “Whitey” Bulger is arrested and follows his trial while exploring the man and the corruption that plagued Boston for years. Entertainment Weekly has called the film , “Summer Movies To See.” It has been selected for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
• Midwest Premiere of “Wild Canaries.” In this comedy mystery starring Emmy-Award nominee Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”) and Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”), a Brooklyn couple suspects foul play when their rent-controlled
neighbor suddenly drops dead. The film has been selected as a Grand Jury award nominee for the SXSW Film Festival.
• Midwest Premiere of “Sister.” Starring Academy-Award nominee Barbara Hershey, Reid Scott, John Heard and Illeana Douglas, this poignant family drama follows a well-meaning brother who takes in his delinquent sister. The film has been selected for the Tribeca Film Festival.
• Midwest Premiere of “Love Child.” A shocking documentary on the first fatality attributed to “internet addiction.” A young couple in Seoul, Korea, allow their newborn baby to starve to death while they devote their lives to raising a fictional child in an online fantasy world. Grand Jury prize nominee in World Cinema Documentaries for the Sundance Film Festival.
• Midwest Premiere of “Cas & Dylan.” Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss stars as an aging doctor who inadvertently winds up on the lam with an “anything-but-normal” 22-year-old girl (Tatiana Maslany) in this comedic drama directed by Jason Priestley. The film won a Canadian Genie Award for Best Actress in Leading Role.
South Haven Police step up effort to arrest vandals; Offer $500 reward
South Haven Police Department is offering a reward up to $500 for tips leading to the arrest of three suspects who are vandalizing vehicles and park restrooms.
Police say they have responded to “numerous complaints involving legally parked ares on city streets. The suspects break windows of the vehicles. Nothing, however, is taken from the vehicles.
Officers also say fixtures have been destroyed in public restrooms at Kids Corner Park on Monroe Boulevard and the Tot Lot on Bailey Street in the past several weeks.
City residents are asked to report any suspicious activity by calling 911. People who have information about the vandalism are asked to call the police department, 637-5151.
South Haven man involved in serious motorcycle accident
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A 56-year-old South Haven man suffered serious head injuries Thursday after his motorcycle collided with a car.
Dennis McCurine was traveling south in the 300 block of Broadway at approximately 10:15 p.m. when a northbound car, driven by a 20-year-old Kalamazoo woman, turned left in front of his bike, causing him to crash into her vehicle, according to South Haven Deputy Police Chief Natalie Thompson. McCurine was not wearing a helmet.
“It was a very bad accident,” Thompson said. Emergency responders from South Haven Area Emergency Services rushed McCurine to South Haven Hospital, where he later was airlifted to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. Hospital officials, today, would not release the condition of McCurine, however, Thompson said she had received news from McCurine's wife that he was beginning to recover. “He's talking and doing better,” Thompson said.
Police shut down a portion of Broadway between Phoenix and Huron streets to reconstruct how the accident happened. They do not believe speed or alcohol were factors in the accident, however, they have not yet completed their investigation. They said they would not yet release the name of the woman from Kalamazoo who was driving the car, pending results of their investigation.
Conservancy hosts 3rd annual Brilliant Birds Tour
Mothers can be treated to Mother Nature and a flurry of birds on Saturday, May 10, at Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s Black River Preserve, in Geneva Township. The conservancy will offer a guided walking tour highlighting a wide variety of wildflowers and many species of avian spring arrivals from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Black River Preserve features 121 acres of meadow, steeply rolling forest, and wetlands, in addition to one mile of river frontage and forested areas along three tributary streams. The area provides habitat for warblers, tanagers, thrushes, orioles, cuckoos and dozens of other kinds of birds.
Tour leaders Nate Fuller, the conservancy's director of conservation and stewardship, and John Mitchell, president of Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail, will lead the tour.
"The combination of great wildlife cover, proximity to Lake Michigan, and being along the river means we could see all sorts of birds," Fuller said. "With trees leafing out late this year, we’ll have great views through the woods. I expect nice looks at rose-breasted grosbeaks and scarlet tanagers."
Black River Preserve was acquired by the conservancy in 2011. Areas are now under restoration to improve habitat for wildlife and water quality, and the first phase of a trail system has been implemented.
"Our first steps have been toward restoration of the ecology of the site," Fuller said. "We are in the process of identifying resources to improve its value as a local resource for passive recreation." Currently, the preserve has some existing trails and will eventually have an off-street parking lot, a completed trail system, and trailhead signage.
Space is limited for the tour. To make reservation, call (269) 324-1600. Participants should dress for weather conditions and bring binoculars. One mile east of County Road 689 and a half-mile west of 86th Street, just west of the 8th Avenue Bridge.Directions and additional information can be accessed at www.SWMLC.org.
South Haven voters say yes to $36.74 million in school building improvements
Third time's the charm proved to be at work for South Haven Public School officials bond proposal request.
Twice in the past six years, voters turned down funding for building improvements, but Tuesday, they had a change of heart, approving $36.74 million to upgrade school and athletic facilities.
According to election results, 61 percent of voters favored the 30-year bond proposal. A total of 1,319 electors voted yes, while 843 nixed the idea.
Most of the bond request — $28.87 million — will be used for improvements to South Haven High School. The improvements follow:
Improvements to other facilities follow:
Now that the bond proposal has been approved, property tax bills will soon go up. The owner of a home valued at $100,000, will pay an additional $78 annually; the owner of a $150,00 home will pay an extra $117 each year; while those with homes valued at $200,000, will pay $155 more in taxes.
Bangor voters elect three new council members
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — Three last-minute, write-in candidates ended up having an effect on Bangor's city council election.
Tuesday's election was originally uncontested. Harold Bator and Lucas Koenig had sought two full-term seats, while Jim Tanner settled for the partial-term seat.
However, only two of the three were elected, according to unofficial results.
Bator and Tanner will take their seats on the council, while write-in candidate Daniel Fry, will fill the other full-term seat. The full terms will be for three years. The partial term seat will last until May of 2016.
Unofficial results follow:
Full-term seats: Harold Bator, 84; Daniel Fry, 67; Greg Moench, 53; Lucas Koenig, 50.
Partial-term seat: Jim Tanner, 88; Robert Freislinger, 53.
The results could change, Bangor Clerk Kim Schmitz said, due to various spellings voters used for the write-in candidates' names. Fry, for instance, could end up receiving 83 votes, while Moench could get 65. Van Buren County Board of Canvassers will make the final determination.
But it appears, even with the varied spellings, the outcome of the election will remain the same.
Twelve percent of the city's 1,317 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election.
Meijer's opening attracts a crowd
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
If a full parking lot is any indication, South Haven area residents like the town's new Meijer store.
The Grand Rapids-based retailer conducted a “soft opening” Thursday at its newest store at 1223 Phoenix St. in preparation for Sunday's grand opening.
But the enticement of grand-opening gift card giveaways didn't stop people from checking out the 190,000-square-foot establishment a few days ahead of time.
As shoppers browsed among groceries, approximately 100 people stood at the front of the store to watch Meijer officials and governmental leaders take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony where they presented a $25,000 check to South Haven Public Schools athletic program and $7,500 to Bangor Vikings summer ball program.
“We're so glad to be here,” said Hank Meijer, company president. “I think it's one of the few stores we have that is right next to a highway and right next to a downtown. It makes us feel like we're part of South Haven.”
Governmental officials are equally as glad to have Meijer locate in South Haven.
“Not only am I excited about the job creation and private investment this development represents, I am pleased with our partners in South Haven Charter Township who actively partnered with the city to ensure this development was planned and built in a high-quality manner,” South Haven Mayor Bob Burr said.
The sprawling store is located in South Haven Township, while its nearby gas station rests on South Haven city land.
Both South Haven City Manager Brian Dissette and South Haven Township Supervisor Ross Stein said the store will provide the catalyst for more economic growth for the entire South Haven area.
Meijer hired more than 260 employees for the opening of the local store, according to Store Director April Groenleer.
“This community has provided such a talented team for this store,” she said.
But the new jobs are just part of the picture, according to Stein and Dissette.
“Meijer will be the anchor for future growth,” Stein said, indicating that four retail establishments have shown interest in locating businesses near the intersection of Blue Star Highway and Phoenix Road.
The township and city will also receive more property tax revenue from Meijer, as well as revenue for utilities that Meijer uses, such as water, sewer and electricity.
“It (utility usage) will allow us to expand our (water and sewer) system,” Dissette said. Meijer's utility usage may also eventually mean cheaper utility costs for area residents served by the city's water and sewer systems.
Restaurant, bank open in Meijer store
The South Haven Meijer store is home to Huntington Bank and Subway restaurant.
Huntington plans to offer staffing at its new South Haven office seven days a week, according to Brian Bromley, senior vice-president of Huntington. The South Haven Huntington is the 40th one that the banking firm has opened in Meijer stores in the past two years, Bromley went on to say. The Subway is operated by the same owners of the Subway store on Broadway Street in South Haven.
Grand opening events
Meijer will feature grand opening events, starting Sunday, that include daily giveaways, family activities and a chance to win ten Ultimate Grilling Packages through May 31. On Sunday, the first 200 customers to enter store after 6 a.m. will receive a Mystery Meijer Gift Card with a value of $5, $10 or $20. Notable events for the month include an In-store Community Picnic and free ticket giveaways to Cedar Point amusement park every 15 minutes with WCSY-FM radio personalities on May 10, Radio Disney on May 11, and a cooking demonstration with celebrity chef and reality TV star Fabio Viviani on May 25 from 5-7 p.m.
PHOTO: Meijer cashier Jackie Danenberg is shown at the check-out line along with customer Jeff Olney.
Reconstruction of I-196 in Allegan County set to begin
Motorists can expect traffic delays on Interstate 196 in Allegan County this summer.
Starting Monday, May 12, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to reconstruct more than 7 miles of eastbound I-196 in Allegan County, from the split with US-31 to the Ottawa County line in Holland.
The $15.7 million investment is the extension of the northbound I-196 reconstruction project completed in 2012. The eastbound I-196 project includes road reconstruction, ramp and bridge repairs, and culvert, slope, guardrail and fence repairs and replacement.
Construction is scheduled for completion by Oct. 31, and includes nighttime and weekend work, according to an MDOT news release. During construction, one lane of I-196 will be open in each direction, as well as intermittent ramp and bridge closures with posted detours.
During work on the M-40 ramp to eastbound I-196, traffic will be detoured north on M-40 to 32nd Street, then east to I-196.
While work proceeds on the eastbound I-196 ramp to M-40, traffic will be detoured north on US-31 to M-40, then south to I-196.
The 56th Street and 58th Street bridges over I-196 will be closed alternately, and detoured. The detour for 56th Street will be 58th Street, while the detour for 58th Street will be 56th Street.
Monroe Boulevard construction begins
A portion of Monroe Boulevard in South Haven will be closed to traffic for the next several weeks.
Beginning today, Monroe Boulevard will be closed to through traffic from Aylworth Avenue to South Haven Street. The road closure is necessary for construction of new sanitary sewer main, sanitary sewer services, and water services. Upon completion of the utility work, the street pavement will be replaced.
The project is anticipated to last through June 10, city officials say. Traffic will be detoured on Aylworth Avenue, St Joseph Street, and South Haven Street. Residents within the construction zone are requested to travel north or south to reach the beginning of the detour route.
The City has hired Abonmarche to provide construction phase services for this project. Questions or concerns may be directed to Tim Drews, PE at (269) 927-2295, ext 157. Thank you for your patience as we complete this work.
New South Haven Meijer store ready to open its doors Thursday
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Shoppers will have a new store to check out when Meijer opens its doors Thursday.
Located on Phoenix Street, just west of Interstate 196, the new 190,000-square-foot store will celebrate its “soft” opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., Thursday. Store officials will then host a grand opening Sunday, May 4, offering a number of giveaways and prizes.
When customers enter the 190,000-square-foot store, they will notice a wide variety of merchandise and departments including a pharmacy, a meat department that offers butcher shop service, a bakery that carries fresh bread baked four times a day, a produce section that features 600 varieties of produce and a garden center.
“As a pioneer of the 'one-stop shopping' concept, Meijer stores have evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive electronics departments, garden centers and apparel offerings,” said Joe Hirshmugl, public relations director for Meijer.
The new store and its accompanying gas station will employ more than 270 people, Hirshmugl went on to say. It will be open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, except Christmas.
It took nearly two years to build the store, which has entrances on both Phoenix and Blue Star Highway.
Meijer had been eyeing the South Haven market for several years, company officials said earlier. They got their chance to build a new store here after purchasing 24 acres of land in 2011 from Stone's Throw LLC, owned by Cindi Compton and Henry Compton of South Haven. The property was mainly wooded and needed a lot of preparation and excavation before construction could begin. Once construction began in 2013, the store took a little over a year to be built.
The South Haven location becomes the 205th Meijer Store to open to the public. Meijer, a Grand Rapids-based retailer, operates supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
Gas station robbed on Easter
MATTAWAN — Police are on the lookout for three men who stole nearly $4,500 from a gas station in Mattawan on Easter.
The incident occurred shortly before noon at the Citgo gas station, 24039 Red Arrow Hwy.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies say three black men entered the store. Two of the suspects walked around the store while a third one went into a side room where money was located in an unlocked drawer.
When the clerk noticed the man near the side room the suspect became irate with her. The three men then fled with nearly $4,479 taken from the drawer.
The suspects may also have been involved in robberies from two stores in Portage, Saturday.
The men are described as 35-50 years of age. All were in dark clothing. One suspect was wearing a blue stocking hat. Another one was wearing a light-color golf-style hat. They were driving a newer, white sedan, possibly a Cadillac.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office or Silent Observer.
'Blood Red' lunar eclipse - first one of 2014
The South Haven area was shrouded in clouds early this morning for the 'blood red' lunar eclipse, but Sheryl Kaptur of South Haven managed to capture these images. The top image shows the moon just prior to the eclipse. The one directly above shows part of the eclipse, A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra. This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle.
Bangor DPW director announces retirement
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BANGOR — After 40 years with Bangor's Department of Public Works, Steve Lowder is calling it quits, but some people aren't too happy about it.
Lowder submitted his retirement notice April 4 to City Manager Ryan Fellows. He will continue to work as DPW director until a new person is hired.
“I have enjoyed my many years of serving the City of Bangor and I look forward to helping the city successfully transition to a new director of public works,” he wrote.
The letter seemed amiable enough, but two people who attended Monday's City Council meeting claim Lowder was forced to retire.
“This is hypocrisy, why don't you call it what it is?” asked a man who identified himself as Tony.
Another man, Brian Rouse, agreed. “I've known Steve the majority of my life. I've never seen him turn down work.”
Several city council members, however, disagreed with the two men.
“Forty years speaks for itself,” said council member Fred Hicks. “I don't know if I agree with us being hypocrites.”
“Forty years is a very long time for any one to be in a position,” said council member Lynne Farmer. “We appreciate Steve as our DPW director and assistant fire chief.”
But another council member hinted that there may have been friction between Lowder and city administrators over the past several years. Fellows is the fourth city manager the town has had since 2011.
“Maybe it wasn't all his (Lowder's) fault, maybe it was management's fault,” said council member Renee Doroh.
Whatever his reason for retirement, Lowder isn't talking about it. “I really can't say,” he said in a phone interview, Tuesday.
City Manager Ryan Fellows said he wasn't aware of Lowder's intentions to retire until after he received his resignation letter.
When asked if he had reprimanded Lowder, Fellows said, “there's nothing in writing. People make choices.”
Fellows went on to say, “I thank Mr. Lowder for his years of service and appreciate his willingness for a smooth transition.”
Grand Junction man charged with aggravated assault of a police officer
A 19-year-old Grand Junction man faces several criminal charges after allegedly spitting on a sheriff's deputy and using a cigarette to burn a police sergeant.
Van Buren County Sheriff's Department arrested Eric Thomas Murphree for aggravated assault of a police officer, resisting and obstruction of a police officer, simple assault and minor in possession of alcohol. He was arraigned Monday in Van Buren District Court where the magistrate set his bond at $25,000.
The charges stem from a complaint deputies received, Sunday, of a possible assault in progress in the 00700 block of 67th Street, in Geneva Township.
Murphree allegedly was arguing with and physically assaulting a 39-year-old man from the South Haven area. When law enforcement officers tried to arrest Murphree he allegedly became combative. During the struggle, a South Haven Police Department sergeant was burnt by a cigarette Murphree had. When Murphree was later escorted to the police cruiser he spit on a deputy's face.
The victim was treated on the scene for his injuries. Murphree was treated at South Haven Hospital for injuries.
Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse re-opens
A Holland restaurant that voluntarily closed its doors after patrons reported flu-like symptoms is now open.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health allowed Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse to reopen on Monday.
The restaurant voluntarily closed Tuesday, April 1 after numerous reports of illness were received by health department from customers who dined at the establishment. Approximately 300 people reported symptoms consistent with norovirus, according to the health department. The health department confirmed that norovirus was indeed the pathogen that affected patrons.
Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse has met the following health department requirements:
Cleaned and disinfected all equipment, floors, walls, and ceilings.
Developed new written policies and procedures and provided staff training on proper hand washing, glove use, food preparation practices, and reporting of illness
Discarded all prepared foods from the establishment
All staff completed a food handlers training program and passed the exam.
Humane Society celebrates National Volunteer Week
Al-Van Humane Society plans to celebrate National Volunteer Week by highlighting all the volunteer opportunities that provide comfort, care and compassion to the local homeless pet population while they wait to be adopted.
“We want to thank those that currently volunteer for our organization by holding a special event on Saturday, April 12 for our active volunteers, and to showcase each day some of the wonderful ways that people can help the homeless pets through service as a volunteer to Al-Van Humane Society,” stated humane society Executive Director Will Anzenberger.
National Volunteer Week, April 6-12, is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change- discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to foster positive transformation.
“Whether it is fostering an animal awaiting a chance at adoption, assisting with our mobile adoption events (“Meet & Greets”), or applying creative skills like photography to promote our shelter animals’ best side, our volunteers provide an invaluable service to our organization and to our mission,” added Anzenberger. “This National Volunteer Week reminds us to take a brief moment out of our hectic schedule to truly thank those that tirelessly give to our organization on behalf of the animals.”
About National Volunteer Week – The event was established in 1974 and has grown each year with thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.
Survey shows state residents favor cherry over blueberry as Michigan's official fruit
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Michigan legislators have yet to decide whether the cherry or blueberry should be the state's official fruit, but a survey conducted by a marketing group could sway their opinion.
Marketing Resource Group of Lansing surveyed voters throughout the state in March and discovered that two-thirds of them think the cherry should rule.
The results, released today, didn't surprise Dave Doyle of Marketing Resource Group. “We kind of expected Southwest Michigan voters to be for the blueberry and the rest of the state for cherries,” he said.
The marketing group decided to survey Michigan residents after hearing State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, had introduced a bill to make the blueberry the state's official fruit. Her bill followed on the heels of a similar one by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D) touting the cherry. A senate committee heard testimony from the two sides in early March but did not make any decisions.
“We read about it and figured it would be a fun and interesting subject of a survey,” Doyle said when asked why Marketing Resource Group decided to poll people.
“Six hundred likely voters were randomly selected throughout the state between March 24-28,” Doyle said of the telephone survey. “If 10 percent of Southwest Michigan voters voted in an election, than 10 percent were called in Southwest Michigan.”
The news is bound to come as a disappointment to the contingency from southwest Michigan who traveled to Lansing in early March to promote the merits of the blueberry.
Local blueberry growers, Blueberry Store owners and students from St. Basil Catholic School and Baseline Middle School spent a half-hour telling legislators why they favor the blue fruit, while students from the east side of the state lobbied for the cherry.
The local students argued that Michigan is one of the largest producers of blueberries in the nation and that blueberries are grown on 21,500 acres spread across 600 farms, many of which are located along the lakeshore in Southwest Michigan. They also pointed out that blueberry production funnels $187.7 million into the state's economy each year and provides 3,000 jobs.
“The kids did a fabulous job,” St. Basil School Principal Jeanne Arbanas said. “Even the cherry side. You have to give them some credit. They've been wanting the cherry for years so they had been at it for sometime. But I thought we had a great showing.”
Each side left the senate committee with some food for thought:
“If this doesn't get out of committee it will be the pits,” cherry promoters said.
Blueberry lovers took a different tack, reminding legislators that blueberries are native to North America, while cherries are native to China.
“You can't forget that,” Arbanas said.
Canine unit sniffs out suspect hiding in a barrel
Hiding from police in a 55-gallon barrel didn't pan out for a Hartford area woman.
A Van Buren County Sheriff's Department canine unit found 29-year-old Tiffani Ann Johnson-Oliver hiding in the barrel Saturday afternoon after she led a deputy on a high-speed chase.
Deputies began to pursue Oliver after she left a gas station in Hartford at a high rate of speed. A deputy tried to stop her 1995 white Cadillac, but Oliver kept trying to elude him for several miles. She went through stop signs and was driving recklessly before going off the road into an orchard and cornfield near the intersection of 34th Avenue and 66th Street in Bangor Township. She then fled her vehicle on foot and attempted to hide in the barrel. Deputies deployed a canine unit that tracked them to the barrel where the suspect was trying to hide.
She was arrested for fleeing and eluding and an outstanding bench warrant.
Covert Township Police, Hartford Police, Michigan State Police and Bangor Police departments assisted.
Man escapes serious injuries after falling asleep while driving on M-40 Highway
A Lawton man is lucky to be alive after a farm post smashed through his windshield, Thursday.
The 18-year-old had been driving north on M-40 Highway in Porter Township when he fell asleep, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's Department news release. His vehicle traveled across the center line and went into a farm field for about 100 yards. It then hit the farm post and re-entered the roadway.
When deputies and emergency personnel arrived at the scene they found the injured man, and the post, which had stopped inches from his body. The man was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo for non-life-threatening injuries. He was cited for careless driving. Neither alcohol, drugs nor speeding were factors in the accident.
Stomach illnesses in Ottawa County linked to Holland restaurant
HOLLAND – Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) has received an increase of gastrointestinal illness reports this week from residents. Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse Grill and Bar in Holland Township voluntarily closed Tuesday after being notified that a number of dining customers had reported gastrointestinal illnesses to the health department. OCDPH has conducted a full inspection and the investigation is still in process. So far, health officials have identified more than 100 gastrointestinal illness cases related to dining at Wild Chef. The restaurant owner and staff have been cooperative with the health department. Health officials are ensuring proper disinfecting procedures have been completed before scheduling a re-open date. OCDPH wants to ensure health and safety for residents and that restaurants are successful establishments. OCDPH is waiting on lab results to determine which pathogen is associated with the Wild Chef incident. Currently, no other dining establishments have been identified as having an outbreak.
Gastrointestinal illness symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and low-grade fever. If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms, please remain at home at least 24 hours after symptoms subside. If you or anyone you know has dined at Wild Chef between Thursday, March 27 and Tuesday, April 1, regardless of experiencing symptoms or not, take a moment to complete the OCDPH online questionnaire at www.surveymonkey.com/s/wildchefto help aid the investigation.
Area municipalities receive nearly $1 million to shore up winter road maintenance budgets
Municipalities in southwest Allegan and northwest Van Buren counties received nearly $1 million today to help restore road maintenance budgets that were depleted by Michigan's cold, snowy winter.
The funding is part of $100 million the Michigan legislature recently approved for winter road maintenance.
"These funds are badly needed by counties, cities and villages to compensate for the extraordinarily high costs of plowing, salting and filling potholes this past winter," said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. "We are all extremely appreciative of the governor's and legislature's understanding of the toll this brutal winter has taken on road budgets."
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) allocated the one-time appropriation of $100 million according to the Public Act 51 of 1951 road funding formula, meaning MDOT received $39.1 million, counties $39.1 million, and cities and villages $21.8 million.
The Act 51 formula is complex. How much a county, city or village receives in funding through Act 51 depends on several factors, including road mileage and population. Counties, cities and villages receiving the funds must use the money for winter maintenance costs, and not for things such as administration, overhead or other indirect costs.
Here is a breakdown of what local municipalities received:
Lawrence man dies in single-vehicle accident
An autopsy is scheduled today for a 42-year-old Lawrence man, who died in a traffic accident on Interstate 94 Wednesday afternoon.
Frederick Neil Alburtus died at the scene of the crash, which occurred shortly before 3 p.m. near the 48 mile marker in Hartford Township.
Witnesses told Michigan State Police troopers they noticed Alburtus driving erratically prior to the crash. Police said Alburtus lost control of his pick-up truck. It went off the right side of the road and rolled over. He was not wearing a seatbelt.
Police say alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the crash. The autopsy will be performed at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital.
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.