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Big Rapids Daily News
News That Affects You Archives for 2016-04

Newaygo MSP officer awarded $350K

 

A former Michigan State Police officer from Newaygo is being awarded $350,000 in a sexual harassment case.

 

Retired state police Trooper Linda Mys complained to superiors that she was being sexually harassed by a long-time detective while stationed in Newaygo more than 10 years ago.

 

After reporting the harassment, Mys was subject to a pattern and practice of retaliation within the MSP according to court documents.

 

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says they are regarding their options for an appeal of the verdict.

 

 

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Mitchell Creek Park gazebo nears completion

 

Construction of the gazebo in Mitchell Creek Park is nearly complete.

 

The dome for the gazebo was installed on Friday although there is still more work to be done.

 

The project is a joint effort between the City of Big Rapids and the Ferris State University Welding and Engineering Technology program.

 

City officials are hoping a Michigan DNR Recreation Passport grant will allow further improvements to the park.

 

 

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Moving Michigan Forward Fund lacks transparency

 

Much of the funding for Flint relief is coming from anonymous donors.

 

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports Governor Rick Snyder's Moving Michigan Forward Fund raised $270,000 for relief efforts so far this year, but much of that money comes with no disclosure about who the donors were and how they might be linked to state contracts or important policy decisions.

 

The MMF Fund has raised more then $1.6 million since it was created in 2013. At that time, Snyder said he intended it to be one where “all the donors will be disclosed and the information will be online."

 

 

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Police in Mecosta Co. investigate stabbing in Aetna Township

 

Deputies in Mecosta County are continuing to investigate a stabbing in Aetna Township on Wednesday.

 

Police say they were called to a home on Jefferson Road around 3am, that’s where a friend of the occupants reported a possible domestic assault between the female and male residents.  

 

Deputies located a 32-year old woman with injuries to her face, neck and ribs along with her live in boyfriend, a 34-year old man with a knife wound to his side/chest. 

 

Both were sent to Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital for treatment. 

 

The male was then flown by to Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids for his injuries.

 

The investigation has been turned over to the Mecosta County Prosecutor's Office for review on charges.  

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Enbridge says Line 5 study flawed

 

Enbridge Vice President of U.S. Operations Brad Shamla says a recent study by the University of Michigan and the National Wildlife Federation on Line 5 in the is flawed.

 

The study concludes that up to 700 miles of shoreline could be impacted by an oil release in the Straights of Mackinac.

 

In an editorial to Bridge Magazine, Shamla claims the study underestimates the amount of oil that would be released should Line 5 fail and that automatic shutoff valves would prevent a catastrophe.

 

He also emphasized Enbridge regularly tests its emergency response plans for the Straits of Mackinac.

 

In 2010 Enbridge's Line 6B burst near Kalamazoo resulting in the largest inland oil spill, and one of the costliest spills in U.S. history.

 

 

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Michigan congressman calls for new national lead standard

 

A U.S. Congressman from Michigan wants tougher federal standards for lead in drinking water.

 

Representative Dan Kildee introduced the bill on Thursday in response to the public health crisis in Flint.

 

Kildee says the nation's drinking water protections are outdated and a patchwork of different rules and more must be done to protect U.S. citizens.

 

The legislation would lower the standard at which the federal government requires action from 15 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion over the next 10 years.

 

 

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Toxic flame retardant affects health in Michigan after 43 years

 

A new study says Michiganders are still suffering the affects of PBB 43 years after the toxic flame retardant was accidentally mixed with livestock feed in St. Louis, Michigan.

 

Emory University School of Medicine professor Michele Marucs has tested more 800 people across the state over the last two years and, she says, six out of 10 still have elevated levels of PBB in their systems.

 

The study also found women in the group had more breast cancer cases than expected and a very high rate of miscarriages.

 

Millions of Michiganders ate contaminated beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs following the accident.

 

 

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Michigan gag order law halted

 

A controversial law that limits how elected officials can communicating with voters on ballot issues 60 days prior to an election is now dead.

 

A U.S. District Court judge has placed a permanent injunction on the law saying it is unconstitutionally vague and thus void.

 

The ruling permanently prohibits Secretary of State Ruth Johnson from enforcing the law that was passed by the state Legislature late in 2015.

 

The legislation had passed the Senate unanimously at 13 pages but grew to 53 pages at the last minute and was passed with only Republican votes.

 

 

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Water service interruption in Big Rapids planned for Sunday

 

The Big Rapids Department of Public Works will be shutting down water service to around 1,000 residents on Sunday.

 

Officials say the affected area is south of Ferris State University on Northland Drive and Gilbert Road.

 

The shutoff, scheduled to begin at 8:00 am, is necessary for the DPW's water system expansion project.

 

Water should be back on for those affected sometime between 10:00 am and noon.

 

 

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Two proposals on the May ballot for Big Rapids Public Schools

 

On May 3rd, Big Rapids Public Schools will be asking residents to renew an operating millage and extend its sinking fund another five years.  

 

The first operating millage proposal is an 18-mil non-homestead levy for only business, industrial and commercial properties.

 

This proposal does not affect primary residences.  If approved, it would be used to pay for teachers, staff and curriculum.  

 

The second proposal BRPS officials are hoping voters approve is a five-year extension of its 0.75 mil sinking fund.

 

If approved, the fund would generate $310,000. The money can only be used for building renovations and improvements.

 

Superintendent Tim Haist said over the past three years, the fund has helped provide numerous building improvements including better security and playground equipment. This extension would let BRPS to continue those improvements without sacrificing in other areas. 

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Lawmakers say nearly $40B to run Michigan next year

 

The Michigan House of Representatives says it will take $38.8 billion to run the state for he next fiscal year.

 

That's the figure in the budget approved by the House earlier this week.

 

The plan includes $4.1 billion for roads and bridges, a slight increase in revenue-sharing dollars for counties, and maintains full funding for cities, villages and townships.

 

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a cut in that portion of the budget.

 


 

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Workers' Memorial Day highlights on the job dangers in Michigan

 

Thursday is Workers' Memorial Day, a day to pay tribute to lives lost in the workplace and to put the focus on worker safety to prevent future deaths.

 

Michigan AFL CIO spokesperson Zack Pohl says worker safety needs to be a bigger priority both at the job site and when it comes to making state and national policy.

 

"There were 143 Michigan workers who died on the job in 2014. That's up slightly from the previous year. It puts us in the top half of most workplace fatalities in the country."

 

The data is from a new report, "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect" that also found Michigan had over 117-thousand cases of workplace injuries and illness in 2014, the seventh most in the country.

 

Workers Memorial Day is held each year near the end of April to celebrate the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

 

 

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Snyder to miss President's visit to Flint

 

Governor Rick Snyder will most likely be absent when President Barak Obama visits Flint next week.

 

A spokesperson for the Governor says Snyder is currently scheduled to be out of town the day the President will be in Michigan, but that his schedule could change.

 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township says the president's visit will help to keep focus on Flint as the crisis continues.

 

 

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Reed City Public School district asks voters for increased millage

 

Officials at the Reed City Area Public School district are asking voters for more money.

 

Two proposals on next week's ballot will extend and increase the current school millage raising about $15 million.

 

Two of the main projects officials hope to complete is improving the high school track and building a new multipurpose room.

 

Building improvements, increased safety, and upgraded technology are also planned.

 

If the millage increase passes, most people will pay about $65 more in property taxes each year.

 

 

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Tire and electronic collection to be held Saturday

 

The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly is holding their Spring Tire and Electronic Collection. Project Manager Dixie Ward says if you have old tires cluttering up the place, bring them on down.

 

Personal non-business tires are accepted, on or off the rim, and they cannot be over four feet tall.”

 

The same thing goes for electronics, she says.

 

Anything with a cord – we take any type of electronics, cell phones, all that kind of thing.”

 

Most electronic items can be brought in for free but, due the cost of disposal for tires and some electronics, there will be some charges.

 

The tires are $1.00 per tire, and we do limit it to ten tires. Computer monitors are $10.00 straight across the board, and then TV's 27” and smaller is $10.00, over 27” is $20.00,” says Ward.

 

She adds that large appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers aren't being accepted during this collection and there is also a $15.00 charge to remove freon from some appliances such as window air conditioners.

 

Once you get all of your unwanted tires and electronics down to the site, Ward says don't worry about getting everything unloaded.

 

Absolutely, we will have volunteers there to help unload.”

 

The collection will run from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm Saturday, April 30 at the Mecosta County Fairgrounds on West Avenue in Big Rapids.

 

For additional information, contact the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly at 231-591-2320.

 

 

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Obama to visit Flint

 

A letter from an eight-year-old girl is bringing President Barak Obama to Michigan.

 

The White House has announced the President will visit Flint this Wednesday after Amariyanna Copeny of Flint wrote and asked if she could meet with him.

 

He's also slated to receive a briefing on the federal effort to assist in the cleanup of Flint's water system and to hear from Flint residents.

 

No details on the President’s visit are being released at this time.

 

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Big Rapids children's parade canceled

The Osceola Great Start Collaborative Children's Parade downtown Big Rapids scheduled for 1:00 pm on Thursday has been canceled due to the weather.

 

For more information call 231-592-9605.

 

 

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Embezzlement case of Fmr. Marion Fair Board Treasurer moves forward

 

An embezzlement case against a former treasurer for the Marion Fair Board is heading to circuit court in Osceola County.

 

43-year old Rebecca Jeanne Johnson is accused of embezzling money from the fair board from January of 2014 to September of 2015.

 

Police began investigating the Marion Fair Board after 39 exhibitors said they had still not received money from the sale of livestock during the July fair.

 

The board eventually paid over $37,000 owed to the exhibitors in October.

 

Johnson faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted on the felony embezzlement charge.  

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House passes $16B education budget

 

The state House of Representatives is giving the green light to a $16.1 billion education budget.

 

The budget increases funding for K-12 schools by $60 to $120 per pupil, while giving universities and community colleges funding increases of 3.4% and 3.7% respectively.

 

Some lawmakers were hoping that higher education funding would get back to 2011 levels before major cuts, and many objected to several provisions in the K-12 budget such as the elimination of M-Step tests and funding for SAT college exams.

 

The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the school budget next week, and a conference committee will then be appointed to work out the differences with an end goal of approving all budgets by June 1.

 

 

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Experts tout nutrition as an important lead-fighter

 

Many Flint residents are sticking to bottled water or filtered water to avoid lead that leached into the city’s water system.

 

USDA Deputy Undersecretary Dr. Katie Wilson spoke with residents and local leaders on Tuesday about how better nutrition can also help fight lead poisoning.

 

"Lead poisoning is much more drastic when you have an empty stomach. So, eating small meals throughout the day to keep your stomach full is really a good practice to use. We also know that iron, calcium and vitamin C help mitigate some of that lead poisoning as well,” she says.

 

The USDA is working with farmers markets, community organizations, and local USDA program providers to offer nutritional education for residents.

 

 

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Over $57M slated to fight Asian carp

 

More effort is being put into preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

 

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released its 2016 action plan Tuesday indicating $57.3 million will be spent to keep Asain carp from disrupting food chains and out-competing native fish.

 

Efforts will be stepped up to detect the presence of the aggressive fish at various life stages and the development of technologies to limit their migration to new areas will be expanded.

 

 

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Coyote hunting now legal year-round

 

It is now legal to hunt coyotes in Michigan all year long.

 

The Natural Resources Commission issued a new rule allowing hunters to hunt coyote year-round on public land.

 

The change takes place immediately.

 

The DNR says the public's been requesting more coyote opportunities and trapping season dates and regulations are not affected.

 

Michigan is now one of many states to have coyote hunting year-round.

 

 

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Public smoking ban challenged

 

A growing number of residents and business owners are pushing for changes to the state law banning smoking in bars, restaurants and veteran's halls.

 

Kent County Health Department Program Supervisor Cassie Kobler says any changes to the state's smoking ban would be short-sighted and put the health of non-smokers at risk.

 

I think it’s very contrary to the work we’re doing with prevention, as well as making sure the greater good, the larger population is being protected," Kobler says.

 

The group "Ban the Ban Michigan" is proposing an amendment to current state law that would allow smoking in outdoor eating areas and indoor areas designated for patrons 21 years and older.

 

 

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State aims to crack down on human trafficking

 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is stepping up his fight against human trafficking.

 

He held a meeting of the minds on Tuesday to figure out what can be done to attack the problem and Human Trafficking Commission Vice Chair David Leyton says the commercial sex ecosystem is what must be attacked.

 

Our idea is to reduce the demand so that the supply side also gets reduced. There’s far too many individuals seeking sex in Michigan and so what we want to do is want to reduce that side of it and we think it will help us take human trafficking and help it get it under control.”

 

The Human Trafficking Commission has been active for a  year with the goal of improving the lives of those affected by the crime and what can be done to curb it in the future.

 

 

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Revenge porn bill signed into law

 

It is now illegal to post sexually explicit videos or photos to coerce, threaten or intimidate person in Michigan.

 

Lt. Governor Brian Calley signed the legislation into law on Tuesday to stop the practice of “cyber revenge” or “revenge porn.”

 

Sponsors in the Legislature say the practice is often meant to shame or humiliate the person depicted.

 

The law carries a possible prison sentence and a maximum $1,000 fine.

 

 

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Community garden plots ready in Big Rapids

 

The USDA currently defines Big Rapids as a “food desert” but the Big Rapids Community Garden Board is trying to change that.

 

The board is currently accepting applications for residents to use a raised garden bed to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

The garden bed is located at the corner of Second Avenue and Adams Street and more garden beds are being constructed for future use.

 

Residents interested in renting a garden bed for the growing season should fill out an application and pay the fee by May 31.

 

Applications and more information can be found on the group’s website, bigrapidscommunitygarden.org, or at the housing commission office.

 

 

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Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital cuts wait time in emergency room by half

 

It will now take less time to be admitted to the emergency room at Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital.

 

In previous years, patients have waited an average of 25 minutes or more after coming into the emergency room before they saw a doctor.

 

After a year-long improvement project completed over the past year wait times have been reduced by more than 50 percent.

 

The process began in February 2015 when a large group of emergency department staff, physicians, past patients and leadership from various departments met to determine how to best meet the patients’ needs. The team set goals and objectives and accomplished them through a series of short work sessions to organize supplies, minimize clutter and improve communication.

 

“We’ve added white boards in prominent locations for daily staff communication, and all supply storage areas are now clearly labeled,” Beth Langenburg said. “When staff are informed and can find things quickly, the patient receives faster care.”

 

Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital Emergency Department recently started a similar year-long improvement project that will end in 2017.

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Women living near 'greenness' live longer

 

Eating lots of greens has been known to improve health, but a new report indicates living near green vegetation may help some people live longer lives.

 

Dr. Bonnie Joubert with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says the study found women with the highest levels of vegetation or "greenness" near their homes had a 12 percent lower death rate than women with the lowest levels of vegetation.

 

"It makes us naturally reflect on our own environments, both around our home and where we spend time outside of the home. So, I think it's encouraging for policymakers thinking about the potential benefits of increasing greenness in urban areas,” she says.

 

Researchers found women living in the most green areas had a 41 percent lower death rate for kidney disease, 34 percent lower for respiratory disease, and 13 percent lower rate for cancer deaths.

 

 

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West Michigan church web site hacked by terrorist group

 

The website of a West Michigan church was hacked by an alleged terrorist group late last week.

 

Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Storteboom says she was looking for the phone number of the Lamont Christian Reformed Church when she got a message from the United Cyber Caliphate instead.

 

It was talking about hating and how Allah was God and everything. And they were talking about taking the women and children and stuff,” she says.

 

The website was fixed by Saturday afternoon.

 

The church has been in contact with the FBI and doesn't believe it is a serious threat at this time.

 

The same group has been hacking websites since 2014, including some military online databases.

 

 

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State court filing says no constitutional right to elect local officials

 

Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette are currently preparing their defense of the state's emergency manager law against a federal lawsuit that says the statute violates the rights of local voters and discriminates based on race and wealth.

 

In a response to the lawsuit filed earlier this month, the state claims the U.S. Constitution guarantees voters’ rights to elect their state officials but voters don’t have a constitutional right to choose their local government leaders.

 

A response from a federal appeals court is expected later this year.

 

 

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Interactive map helps morel hunters

 

A new interactive map is now online to help Michigan mushroom hunters find morels.

 

The Mi-Morels map can be found on the Michigan DNR web site and shows wildfires and prescribed burn areas from 2015.

 

Morels are more likely to be found in areas where fires of more than 10 acres occurred the previous year.

 

The map also shows forest cover information and state-managed land boundaries.

 

 

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Howard City man sentenced

 

A Howard City resident will be spending nearly a year in jail for spying on an undressed woman.

 

Police arrested Shawn Schneider in Wexford County's Haring Township for the crime late last year.

 

He was sentenced to 300 days behind bars and be on parole for five years.

 

 

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Big Rapids Police say robbery and assault of person walking in Clay Cliff's Nature Area never happened

 

Police in Big Rapids now say an assault and robbery of a person walking on a trail at Clay Cliff's Nature Area two weeks ago didn't happen.

 

Detective Brian Miller of Big Rapids DPS says after investigating the incident, it's believed the victim of the complaint suffered a medical episode. 

 

That episode, according to Miller caused them disorientation and confusion after coming to, leading to the erroneous report. After speaking with the victim, police believe no assault/robbery took place April 16th. 

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Evart man pleads no contest to child abuse charges

 

An Evart man is pleading no contest to child abuse charges in Osceola County. 

 

20 year old Marc Steven Hartnett was arrested back in September after State Police say they were called to a home in Evart when a mother of a 19-month old baby, found her child unresponsive with severe injuries. 

 

Hartnett was watching the child at the time. 

 

He pleaded no contest to first degree child abuse and assault. Hartnett will be sentenced next month. 

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Michigan farmers offered assistance with conservation practices

 

Farmers in Michigan can get assistance when working to be certified for meeting environmental protection standards.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the assistance is intended for farmers who have started the verification process but need to implement one or two conservation practices to finish.

 

Farmers are asked to contact their local USDA service center for more information.

 

 

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Michigan kids impacted by parental incarceration

 

Michigan has the fifth-highest number of children growing up with a parent in prison, which a new report finds has a devastating impact on families and communities.

 

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation findings, one in 10 Michigan kids is affected by parental incarceration, and it is seven times more likely among African-American children and three times more likely among Latino children than whites.

 

At Kids Count Michigan, Alicia Guevara Warren says it’s a traumatic experience.

 

"These children are more likely to be homeless, and their families really struggle to provide some of those basic necessities. All of that is on top of this emotional stress and strain that’s put on a family when a parent is incarcerated."

 

Warren contends reforms are needed, both to reduce incarceration and provide the essential services that children need to get through this tough time.

 

The report recommends increased education and job training for people in prison, and incentives for housing authorities to reduce the barriers people with criminal records face in getting affordable housing.

 

 

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Lawmakers propose to eliminate Michigan's cohabitation law

 

It is currently a crime for an unmarried couple to live together in the State of Michigan.

 

The law states it is a misdemeanor for an unmarried couple to live together in a “lewd and lascivious manner” and would be taken off the books under a proposal introduced in Lansing last week.

 

According to figures from the U.S. Census, there were over 200,000 households of unmarried men and women in 2014, the latest figures available.

 

 

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Former Flint Emergency Manager taps high priced lawyer – wants city to pay

 

Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley wants the City of Flint to pay $750 an hour for a lawyer. Earley submitted the bill for attorney

 

A. Scott Bolden of Washington, DC who sat with Earley while he was questioned last month by a congressional committee.

 

Flint City Councilwoman Jacqueline Poplar says the city will not pay for Earley's legal council and would like to see him refund the salary he was paid while acting as Flint's state appointed emergency manager.

 

Bolden's firm is charging nearly $64,000 for their services.

 

 

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Consumer's Energy raises natural gas rates

 

Consumer's Energy is raising it's natural gas rate by $40 million annually, but customers will be seeing their monthly gas bill go down.

 

Last summer, Consumers Energy asked for a nearly $85 million increase but last week the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a settlement that is 53 percent less than what Consumers Energy wanted.

 

As a result, officials say the average residential bill will decrease by $1.69 a month starting in May.

 

 

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Frozen vegetables sold at Mejier being recalled

Some frozen vegetables sold under the brand name “True Goodness By Meijer” are being recalled because of a possible risk of listeria.

 

The recall includes 10-ounce sizes of "organic petite green peas" and "organic white sweet corn" with use by dates of Nov. 26, 2017, and Nov. 21, 2017 according to the Food and Drug Administration.

 

Consumers are urged not to consume the recalled products.

 

People who bought the products can take them back to the store for a refund.

 

 

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Head-on accident in Morton Township sends three to the hospital

 

Three people are recovering following an accident in Morton Township.

 

Mecosta County Sheriff's Deputy John Bongard says the accident occurred around 1:00 pm on Saturday near the intersection of Pierce and 110th Avenue when a 65 year old male from Middletown Ohio crossed the center line and struck an oncoming vehicle driven by a 76 year old female.

 

A 62 year old passenger and both drivers were transported to local hospitals for non-life threatening injuries.

 

 

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Unions sue state over campaign finance law

 

The State of Michigan is being sued by a group of labor unions over a law that allows corporations, but not unions, to contribute to political action committees.

 

A bill was passed last year that revised campaign finance law allowing corporations to use payroll deductions for employees to make contributions to the business' political action committee.

 

But it also prohibits unions from having the companies where their members work make payroll deductions for the union's PAC.

 

 

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Feeding America offers free food in Mecosta and Newaygo counties

The group Feeding America will be visiting locations in Mecosta and Newaygo counties his summer.

 

It's the sixth year the organization will be distributing food free of charge to area residents in cooperation with the United Methodist Church.

 

Distributions will take place through the summer at UMC churches in Paris, Rodney, and Grant starting later this month.

 

Sign-in to receive food begins at 8 a.m. on distribution days at the following locations:

 

  • Paris UMC: April 30, May 27, and October 29.

  • Grant Center UMC: June 24 and August 26.

  • Rodney UMC: July 29 and September 30.

 

 

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'Blow-and-go' units curbing drunk drivers

 

Ignition interlocks seem to be working when it comes to preventing repeat drunk driving offenders in Michigan.

 

A new report says that when used in conjunction with a Sobriety Court program, they contribute significantly to better success rates among participants.

 

DWI-Sobriety Courts that didn't use the interlocks had three times greater odds of failure than those courts that ordered the devices.

 

Ignition interlocks prevent a driver from starting a car if the driver's blood alcohol level is too high.

 

 

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State still paying legal fees for MDEQ employees charged in Flint water crisis

 

The state of Michigan is still paying attorney fees for two MDEQ employees charged with criminal wrongdoing.

 

Civil service rules say that an employee named in a civil claim can request to be represented at the state's expense.

 

The same rule also states that the department is not required to provide legal services in connection with prosecution of a criminal suit.

 

Governor Snyder says that since criminal allegations are now in place, the payment for legal services may be reconsidered.

 

 

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Michigan reacts to Prince's death

 

Reaction to Prince's death is being heard from across the state.

 

Grand Valley State University music professor Kurt Ellenberger sometimes uses Prince in his teaching.

“What he did was he changed the sound of pop music. If you look at, especially drums and bass and how those are mixed in the 80's, you look before Prince and you look after Prince and it's a different world,” he says.

The 57-year old singer was found unresponsive at his home Thursday morning in Minneapolis.

 

 

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Michigan doctor among TIME's 100 most influential people

 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Hurley Hospital in Flint, is known in Michigan for getting residents to stop drinking the lead-contaminated water in Flint even while state agencies dismissed her claims.

 

Now she is being recognized as among TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.

 

She joins Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards on the list.

 

Edwards tested Flint's water supply and worked with Hanna-Attisha in bringing attention to the drinking water crisis.

 

The pair join people on this year’s list such as Caitlyn Jenner, Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin.

 

 

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State audit bashes Unemployment Insurance Agency

 

A recent audit shows Michigan residents trying to collect unemployment insurance still can’t get through to state government representatives at the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

 

The report by Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler says that close to 90% of the hundreds of thousands of calls were never answered during a two week sampling period.

 

And, 29% of those placed on hold gave up before they were able to talk to someone.

 

This despite Agency claims of improvements.

 

A spokesman for the agency says there are many ways for claimants to communicate with the agency other than by telephone, including online and by e-mail.

 

 

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Fatal crash in Newaygo County

 

An accident in Newaygo County has claimed the life of a Twin Lake man.

 

Newaygo County deputies say the 24-year-old died after crashing into a tree at 108th Street and Brucker Avenue in Bridgeton Township.

 

Deputies say they are still investigating but do not believe alcohol was a factor.

 

 

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New technology helps heart attack victims in Mecosta County

 

Mecosta County residents will have a better chance of survival if they have a heart attack thanks to some new technology.

 

The Mecosta County Commissioners unanimously voted to purchase six new cardiac monitoring devices during a meeting on Thursday.

 

The technology upgrade allows an ambulance to communicate vital information to a cardiac specialist at the hospital while a patient is still in-transit.

 

Mecosta County Emergency Medical Services Director Tim Ladd was also able to negotiate a deal saving the county more than $10,000 per unit.

 

 

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Three local schools receive bronze medal in 2016 best High School rankings

 

Big Rapids High School joins Crossroads Charter Academy and Chippewa Hills High School as being recognized by US News and World Report 2016 best High School Rankings. 

 

Overall, Michigan was ranked 28th in the nation, the state came out of the rankings with seven gold medal schools, 93 silver medal schools and 159 bronze medal schools. 

 

The trio of Big Rapids, CCA and Chippewa Hills all received bronze medals.

 

According to officials,  the bronze distinction includes schools that met state test performance and graduation rate criteria, but have not yet demonstrated high levels of measurable college readiness since their CRI values are less than the CRI median or they don't offer AP or IB programs at all.

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Spectrum Health partners with local schools for health

 
In an effort to improve the health of the community,Spectrum Health has partnered with local elementary schools to offer incentives to children for making healthy choices.
 
On Monday, April 18, the Healthy Eating and Movement Club kicked off at Riverview and Brookside elementary schools in Big Rapids. The club offers all second through fourth grade students at Brookside Elementary and all kindergarten through fourth grade students at Riverside Elementary the chance to earn prizes for being healthy.
 
“One out of three students do not eat enough fruits and vegetables or exercise enough to be healthy,” said Scott Lombard, director of community outreach at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. “If we can show these kids the importance of being 
healthy at a young age, our hope is these habits will stick with them as they get older.”
 
For the remainder of the school year, students can walk or run a 1/4 – mile track that is marked out on the perimeter of each school playground, during recess. Each lap walked is recorded by staff, and students receive a foot charm after completing 20 laps. Students can also track the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat at home and at school. At the end of the school year, a celebration assembly will be held and the male and female student in each grade who has completed the most laps and eaten the most fruits and vegetables will receive a trophy. Second and third place winners will receive a medal. 
 
 

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Common Core under attack by state senator

 

A state senator wants to repeal the Common Core Standards Initiative in Michigan.

 

Patrick Colbeck has introduced a bill to remove the Common Core standards and reaffirm a parents' right to have their child opt out of standardized testing.

 

The bill would substitute Massachusetts school standards, considered one of the leading school systems in the country.

 

However, assistant director for government relations of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals Bob Kefgen says Colbeck is mis-characterizing Common Core.

 

He says Common Core only requires certain education standards, not specific curriculum, and local districts and schools can still make their own choices.

 

 

 

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Michigan study says today's children in poorer mental, emotional, and physical health

 

New research out of Michigan suggests children today are growing up with poorer mental and emotional health than generations past.

 

According to the results of the C-S Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health over half of adults believe kids’ mental and emotional health is worse today than when they were children. Dr. Matthew Davis headed the research.

 

"Adults today see that kids are experiencing less close personal friendships, less quality family time than they did when they are growing up. And there’s a strong sense that this is contributing to worse mental and emotional health for kids today than in generations past," he says.

 

Davis recommends parents support their children by offering a safe space to discuss their worries and stresses.

 

He notes emotional and mental troubles become more difficult to address when they are bottled up.

 

Meanwhile, the poll also showed 42 percent of adults perceiving kids today as having worse physical health than they had when children.

 

 

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Tubman replaces Jackson on $20 bill

 

The U.S. Treasury Department says the front of the new $20 will bear the portrait of Harriet Tubman, whose life was dedicated to fighting for liberty.

 

Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson.

 

The back of the $10 bill will also have women - suffragists who fought to give women the right to vote including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.

 

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the depictions of the women who fought for the right to vote is far more compelling than the steps of the Treasury building currently shown on the back of $10.

 

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Officials warn of meth lab dump sites on state land

 

Springtime brings people back out on Michigan's nature trails and Michigan State Police and the Department of Natural Resources are warning of the possibility of meth dump sites.

 

Officials say meth makers look for any opportunistic place to dump their materials and rural areas with no one around, such as state forest lands, tend to be those places.

 

Both agencies ask that people to be cautious if they see something and speak up if they know where dump sites are.

 

 

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Lawmakers want to dump Michigan BOE

A group of state lawmakers say they want to eliminate the Michigan Board of Education, which has been under fire for a proposed policy that provides voluntary guidance to schools on how to address the needs of LGBTQ students.

 

A resolution was introduced Tuesday by 31 Republican members of the House.

 

Resolution lead sponsor Tim Kelly says the BOE is "an archaic relic of the past" that isn't really needed.

 

 

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Zika virus confirmed in White Cloud

 

A case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in White Cloud.

 

Officials at the Central Michigan District Health Department say a Newaygo County man contracted the virus while visiting a country where it is common.

 

The illness is not typically serious, mainly consisting of mild symptoms like fever, rash, joint pain, and red, itchy eyes. However, Zika can cause severe birth defects when pregnant women contract it.

 

 

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Criminal charges filed in Flint water crisis

 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is acting on the findings of the investigation into the Flint water crisis that was launched three months ago.

 

We are announcing we filed criminal charges in the Flint water crisis against three individuals,” he says.

 

Those three are the former MDEQ supervisor of the Lansing District Office Stephen Busch, former district engineer at MDEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Michael Prysby, and Flint Utilities Administrator Michael Glasgow.

 

Schuette says the trio face multiple felony and misdemeanor charges and could spend years in prison if convicted.

 

They had a duty to protect the health of families and citizens of Flint. They failed,” he adds.

 

Flint mayor Karen Weaver says prosecuting those responsible is all well and good, but...

 

The thing that's really going to fix things here in the city of Flint is we need the financial resources to get new pipes.”

 

Schuette says he's confident he can prove the allegations and that more charges are expected.

 

 

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Two millages in Osceola Co. set for August ballot

There will be two millages on the August ballot for voters in Osceola County who will decide the future of road patrol by police and the Commission on Aging.   

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department will be asking voters to approve one-mil for the next six years that will raise money for 24-hour road patrols. The last road patrol millage passed 20 years ago.

Next voters will be asked to approve an additional 0.2 mil of the one mil cap over the next four years for the Commission on Aging. Officials with the COA say with the growing aging population in the county this millage will allow their organization accommodate the increased need for their services.   

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New fishing regulations in effect to curb invasive species

Michigan anglers will have to abide by new fishing regulations that are designed to slow the spread of fish diseases and fight invasive species.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the new regulations which take effect immediately that involve the collection and use of bait. 

The restrictions on the use of minnows and details where baitfish may be used. 

The regulations seek to minimize the spread of diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, to other waters in the state. 

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Flint mayor not impressed with Snyder's pledge to drink Flint water

 

Flint mayor Karen Weaver says she is not impressed by Governor Rick Snyder's pledge to drink Flint city tap water for the next 30 days.

 

Snyder says he is doing so to convince the public of the water's safety.

 

During a news conference, Weaver said if Snyder really wanted to know what it’s like to deal with the situation, he needs to live in Flint for 30 days and see what it’s like to use bottled or filtered water when you want cook or brush your teeth.

 

She adds the governor is lucky he can drink filtered water, because residents have been dealing with the problem for two years and were drinking it when it wasn’t filtered.

 

 

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Warmer weather brings out motorcyclists and fatalities

 

Four fatal motor cycle accidents in just a span of four days in the state has police warning motorist to keep a eye out.

 

Sgt. Corey Luce with the Kent County Sheriff’s Traffic Safety Unit says motorists are 16 times more likely to die in the event of a crash if they are riding a motorcycle versus a full sized vehicle.

 

And, he says there some things riders and drivers can do to avoid adding to those numbers.

 

You have motorcyclists that haven’t been riding all season, a motorcycle is a lot more difficult to see than a larger vehicle or a truck and motorists need to be aware of that.”

 

In 2014, there were 107 fatalities and over 2,000 injuries in motorcycle accidents in Michigan.

 

 

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Child abuse highlighted in Michigan

 

Dozens of children in Michigan die each year due to abuse or neglect and people from around the state gathered in Lansing on Tuesday to highlight the importance of prevention.

 

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Michigan Children’s Trust Fund Executive director Michael Foley explains children from all walks of life can become the victim of abuse or neglect.

 

"Somewhere around 38 thousand reports of suspected child abuse and neglect happened in Michigan last year. So there’s a lot of attention to things that are going on that are not ideal that are reported. Not all of those are substantiated but clearly it remains a very big issue,” he says.

 

According to federal data, 76 Michigan children died as the result of abuse or neglect in 2014; nationwide there were 1500 fatalities.

 

 

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Criminal charges to be brought in Flint water crisis

 

It's expected that Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will announce criminal charges in the Flint water crisis on Wednesday.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports sources close to the investigation say Schutte is expected to announce felony and misdemeanor charges against at least two, and possibly as many as four people.

 

Attorney Todd Flood, who is part of Schutte's team investigating the crisis explains that charges against government officials are not all that unusual.

 

You have a duty, you breach that duty and because of the gross negligence of that breach, someone died and you can show the proximate cause of that death, then you can have involuntary manslaughter,” he says.

 

Schutte's office is neither confirming nor denying that charges will be brought.

 

 

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Newaygo County official charged with soliciting

A Newaygo County official is in trouble with the law.

 

State police say Norman Ochs, the Newaygo County surveyor, was arrested for soliciting after they received a call about possible prostitution in White Cloud.

 

They say he solicited prostitution several times in the city over a two year period.

 

He's facing four counts of soliciting and is due back in court next month for a pre-trial hearing.

 

 

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Former Mecosta Co. minister gets probation for child pornography charges

 

A former minister of a Mecosta County church is being given two years probation after being sentenced in Kent County court last week. 

 

71-year old Richard Patton of Mecosta was arrested back in October after a Best Buy computer technician in Walker notified police of finding child pornography images on his computer last fall.  

 

He was charged with possession of child pornography and using a computer to commit a crime. 

 

Along with probation, Patton will have to serve under house arrest for six months and is prohibited from using a computer over the next two years.

 

He also has to register as a sex offender.

 

Patton resigned from his position as the music minister at New Hope United Methodist Church after being arrested in October. 

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Reed City officials say construction of collapsed sewer main in final stages

Chestnut Street and Upton Avenue in Reed City is closed and traffic is being rerouted until construction is completed of a sewer main that collapsed last week.

Reed City Manager Ron Howell say the 20ft section of sewer main collapsed on April 14th and hopes to have construction compete in the next few days.

The replacement sewer main will cost the city an estimated $65,000. 

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Jobless figures down in Michigan

 

Fewer people are unemployed in Michigan.

 

According to the Michigan Labor Market, unemployment was 279,000 people in March of 2015.

 

By March this year, that number shrank to 247,000.

 

U.S. Representative Tim Walberg says Michigan employers looking for people and having a hard time finding people to fill all the positions that are available.

 

He made the comments at a job fair in Jackson County.

 

 

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Snyder says he'll drink Flint's water

 

Governor Rick Snyder says he will drink Flint tap water for the next month.

 

The governor says it's to show residents the drinking water in Flint is safe.

 

Snyder is apologizing for his administration's role in the city's lead-tainted water crisis and visited a Flint home on Monday leaving with five gallons of filtered water.

 

He adds that if officials say the water is OK, then he should drink it, too.

 

 

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Michigan families show support for immigrants

 

Dozens of Michigan families were in Washington D.C. On Monday showing support for an executive order on immigration being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

In 2014, President Obama's executive action created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) The orders provide families with U.S. born children protection from being deported, while DACA would allow undocumented immigrants an opportunity to obtain American citizenship.

 

Michigan is among 25 states listed in the United States v. Texas which attempted to block Obama's executive action.

 

Workers Center of West Michigan spokesperson says most American's are immigrants or descended from immigrants.

 

Separating families that are already here and have their roots here, it's not human. It's not what American's like because we are a nation of immigrants.”

 

A decision on the executive action is expected by June.

 

 

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West Michigan power plant shut down

 

The B.C. Cobb Generating Plant along the Muskegon Lake is now part of history.

 

Consumers Energy has shut down the plant as one of an estimated 25 plants closing by the year 2020 due to changing EPA regulations.

 

Vice President of Generation Operations John Broschak, explains why the plant will shutdown after seven decades.

 

"Customers had a choice of investing very large sums of money that would of been ultimately born by our customers in some of our smaller older coal plants, what we elected to do is shut them down instead,” he says.

 

The 116 employees from the plant have either retired or been reassigned within Consumers Energy.

 

 

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Snyder disagrees with prison closing plan

 

A proposal to close two Michigan prisons and then lease another facility doesn't make sense to Governor Rick Snyder.

 

A Senate subcommittee approved a plan last week to do just that, but Snyder says he can't see closing prisons and then turning around and leasing prison facilities from an outside company.

 

Senators are proposing closing prisons to save money as Michigan’s prison population declines.

 

Snyder says it isn't part of his budget recommendation.

 

 

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Mutual aid agreements for fire services approved between Big Rapids & Green, Norwich Townships

If Green or Norwich Townships need help battling a fire, Big Rapids firefighters will be there to aid over the next five years.

The Big Rapids City Commission voted to approve two separate resolutions to offer mutual aid to the two townships for fire services.

The city of Big Rapids will receive over $96,000 a year from Green Township till 2021 under the mutual aid agreement, while Norwich Township will pay Big Rapids just under $18,000 over the next five years for aid.

In other news, the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety promoted Jeff Hull to be captain of its fire division.   

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102nd State House candidate from Wexford Co. wants to cut through the red tape of government

 

Small Business, infrastructure and second amendment rights are issues Michele Hoitenga, candidate for the 102nd State House District is passionate about. 

 

Hoitenga, the current mayor of Manton in Wexford County says there is a lot of red tape holding back small business owners and small towns in Michigan from thriving.

 

“Government is not the solution to our problems, those solutions are found in our communities, schools, our small businesses, churches and its starts with the family.” “So, government needs to back off and stop overreaching.” she said.   

 

Hoitenga, running as a republican, will face off against Mecosta County resident Ormand Hook to take over for current State House Rep. Phil Potvin, who will vacate his seat due to term limits.  

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Proposal expands pension tax exemption

 

 

A number of state lawmakers want to repeal the income tax on pensions that was proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and approved by the Legislature in 2011.

 

The tax was part of Snyder's plan to lower business taxes in the state but Representative Gary Howell wants it modified so more people won't have to pay it.

 

His proposal would extend an exemption to those born between 1946 and 1961, meaning most baby boomers would get a bigger break from the tax.

 

The tax currently raises about $300 million a year for the state.

 

Representative Howell was elected on March 8 to fill the seat vacated by state Rep. Todd Courser

 

 

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Brush fire in Mecosta County

 

Few details are available on a brush fire in Mecosta County.

 

Fire officials in Morton Township say the fire broke out late yesterday afternoon and spread to two buildings.

 

We'll have more details on the situation as they become available.

 

 

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New law aims to help caregivers

 

The Michigan Care Act goes into effect this summer and promises to make taking care of loved ones easier for caregivers.

 

The Act requires hospitals to do a number of things including providing instructions to the caregiver regarding any medical responsibilities they will need to perform when their loved one comes home.

 

AARP Michigan Government Affairs Director Melissa Seifert explains.

 

This is a great first step to really change the culture of what’s going on in hospitals now for discharge and having open communication between families and caregivers and their loved ones,” she says.

 

According to AARP’s Public Policy Institute, there are 2 million caregivers at any point in the year who devote 1.4 billion hours in unpaid care to loved ones resulting in a value of $15.5 billion.

 

 

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Fire danger rising as weather improves

 

Warmer weather is being welcomed around the state, but the Michigan DNR Forest Fire division reminds people many counties are seeing restrictions on burning permits as a result.

 

Although camp fires are not restricted by the burn permits, the DNR says campers need to be especially careful as grass and woodlands are drying out and small fires can get out of control quickly.

 

The division web site currently lists Mecosta County as having a very high fire danger rating.

 

 

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Big Rapids police looking for robbery suspect

 

Big Rapids police are asking for the public's help in a robbery case.

 

Officials say the robbery took place late Saturday in the Clay Cliffs Nature Area when the victim was struck on the head.

 

The suspect then took the victim's wallet and fled the scene.

 

The victim suffered minor injuries and Big Rapids Police are asking anyone with information to contact them.

 

 

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Mecosta-Osceola Central Dispatch reports a large number of tax fraud calls

 

Mecosta-Osceola Central Dispatch is issuing the following warning:

 

Please be aware!!!!

 

We are receiving extremely large numbers of calls reporting fraudulent calls from the IRS. It is a scam that has escalated in our county.

 

The IRS will not call you.

 

Please immediately report the information to the IRS Scam Hotline at 1-800-366-4484.

 

Please share this with everyone you know so they can contact the correct authorities to report this instead of 911.

 

 

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State land up for auction in Northern Lower Michigan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is selling off more than two dozen parcels in the northern lower peninsula.

 

Officials say a sealed-bid auction will take place starting next month and that the land is better suited for private ownership.

 

The parcels are located in are located in Cheboygan, Clare, Gladwin, Kalkaska, Midland, Newaygo, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford counties.

 

Bids must be sent in by June 7 and will be opened on June 21.

 

More information is available at the DNR web site.

 

 

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More money doesn't mean better schools

 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy says there is no correlation between how much money Michigan's Public Schools spend and how well students perform academically.

 

The Center studied over 4,000 schools across the state and found only slight improvement in academic performance with increased spending and concludes the way public schools spend money does not result in any meaningful boost to student achievement.

 

The report says the only area that showed slight improvement with additional spending over the study period was seventh-grade math.

 

 

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Two Michigan prisons to be shut down

 

Two state prisons are being mothballed.

 

A state Senate budget subcommittee has decided to close two unspecified Michigan prisons which could save the state nearly $47 million a year.

 

Many of the displaced inmates from those prisons will be sent to the North Lakes Correctional Facility in Lake County.

 

North Lakes is a private for-profit prison owned and operated by the GEO Group out of Florida.

 

Statistics show the United States has more people in prison than any other country.

 

 

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What do our federal taxes pay for?

 

Some Michiganders will be spending the weekend crunching the numbers on their tax returns ahead of Monday's (4/18) deadline.

 

But do taxpayers realize exactly where their money is going?

 

The National Priorities Project's annual breakdown of income tax spending by the federal government shows the average American paid nearly $13,000 in federal income taxes in 2015.

 

But in Michigan it was less, says research director Lindsay Koshgarian, at about $10,500 dollars.

 

"A little over $3,000 of that went to health care and about $1,300 of that went to Medicaid, about $2,700 went to the military. And if you look at education spending, about $88 went to elementary and secondary education."

 

Income taxes are the biggest source of federal revenue, which Koshgarian says essentially means taxpayers pay the federal government's bills.

 

And she adds that's why it's important for anyone who pays taxes to know exactly how their dollars are being spent.

 

 

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Big Rapids HS boys basketball team honored at banner ceremony

There is another banner in the Big Rapids High School gymnasium.

The Big Rapids High School boys basketball team were honored last night during a ceremony at the school for their final four run.

After player introductions, the team unveiled its 2016 final four banner in the gym to attendees.

Big Rapids Athletic Director Dawn Thompson said it was a magical year for the team and community.

“It’s a great accomplishment to make it to the final four but to watch our community and student body rally around a team to show its Big Rapids pride was truly amazing.” “We are extremely proud of our boys and to be a part of this amazing community.” Thompson said.

BRPS Superintendent Tim Haist echoed his AD’s comments saying it was great seeing everyone come together for this team while they made their run to the final four.   

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Local K-12 schools could see 3% increase in funding

Local school administrators are moving closer to knowing how much funding they will get for next school year.

State House Representative Phil Potvin says right now Big Rapids Public Schools is looking at $120 per student. 

“There will be a 3% increase in funding based on the 2X formula so schools will receive $120 per student compared to $60 per student for schools already receiving funding.”

As for Higher Education, a few days prior to lawmakers break a state senate committee approved a $1.6 billion dollar budget which stipulates schools are not allowed to increase tuition more than 4.8%, if they do they will not get capital outlay funding.   

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Have you filed your taxes?

 

The Michigan Department of Treasury reminds citizens that their Individual Income Tax returns are due this Monday and, they say, e-filing when possible is the easiest way to receive a quick refund.

 

Through April 6th, state officials processed over 3 million individual income tax returns, with 90 percent of those being e-filed.

 

The department is also reminding taxpayers to report Use Tax that may be due on purchases made outside of Michigan, either by telephone, catalog, or over the internet, in 2015.

 

 

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New ruling requires financial advisers to put customers first

 

Up until now, not all financial advisers in Michigan and the rest of the country were required to put their clients first, before any investment funds they represent.

 

This month that's expected to change after the U-S Department of Labor issued a fiduciary rule that requires all financial advisers, who give retirement advice, to act in the best interest of their clients.

 

Jim Lardner with Americans for Financial Reform explains the problem.

 

"Brokers, insurance companies, sales people and others can take advantage of loopholes and have taken advantage of loopholes, to promote high-commissioned investment products that do very well for them, but are not so good for the investor,” he says.

 

This is the first time the rules have been updated in 40 years.

 

It's estimated that the lack of consumer protection until now has cost investors more than 17-billion dollars annually.

 

 

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Crime victims' rights highlighted in Michigan this week

 

This week is National Crime Victims' week and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says observances in Michigan and across the country underscore the importance of early intervention and victim services.

 

He says establishing trust with victims, which in turn begins to restore their hope for healing and recovery, is essential.

 

It’s so important that we always know and never forget the victims of crime who’ve lost loved ones or have been assaulted or brutalized whether its human trafficking or home invasion or sometimes the death of a loved one or a family member.”

 

Michigan was one of the first states to implement crime victim’s rights when a watchdog group that provides further support for crime victims was established in 2011.

 

 

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'Cyber Revenge' proposal closer to becoming law

 

It may soon be a crime to post sexually explicit images on the Internet without the depicted person's consent in Michigan.

 

Legislation was unanimously approved by the House of Representative in Lansing on Wednesday.

 

Sponsors of the legislation who want to stop "cyber revenge" or "revenge porn" say the practice is often meant to shame or humiliate the person depicted, and add it can harm their reputation.

 

 

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FSU's Big Event this weekend

 

Ferris State University's ninth annual Big Event is taking place this weekend. On Saturday student volunteers will fan out to perform yard maintenance and other tasks throughout the Big Rapids community. Student Government spokesperson Patrick Maloney says the event is part of a long tradition.

 

The Big Event started with Texas A&M in 1982 and the students there wanted a way to say thanks to the community so it started the biggest one-day philanthropic event that is practiced now [at] many universities throughout the nation.”

 

And, with over 1500 student volunteers working at nearly 240 area residences, he says this year's Big Event is possibly the biggest ever.

 

Ferris State's is, I believe, the biggest in Michigan and then for colleges, I believe it's the biggest nationwide.”

 

Maloney says they welcome any volunteers who still want to participate and notes that the students get a little something for their efforts.

 

We get to mark this on our resumes as community service.”

 

But, he adds, it's about more than just a good looking resume.

 

The whole reason this was started was saying thank you to the community. It's not about what we can gain, but what we can give.”

 

 

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No one hurt after semi truck carrying oatmeal bursts into flames on US-131 in Osceola Co.

 

Fire investigators are still looking into what started a fire of a semi-tractor trailer on southbound US-131 Tuesday afternoon.  

 

Police say the semi was traveling near LeRoy in Osceola County carrying oatmeal when it caught fire around 1pm.

 

The fire shut down the freeway for a few hours while three fire departments were putting out the blaze and cleaning up the oatmeal on the road.

 

The semi is a total loss and no one was injured. 

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Oil spill at nuclear plant on Lake Michigan

 

An investigation continues as workers clean up an oil spill at a nuclear power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan.

 

The incident took place last Friday at the D.C. Cook nuclear plant in Bridgman just north of the Indiana border when a transformer failure spilled 25,000 gallons of oil.

 

Plant officials say no radioactivity threat was ever present and the oil did not reach nearby drains or Lake Michigan.

 

The Cook power plant is owned and operated by American Electric Power based in Columbus Ohio.

 

 

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Big Box gas stations to sell beer and wine

 

A new law allows big-box grocery stores, such as Meijer, to sell beer and wine at their gas station convenience stores under a bill signed by Governor Snyder on Tuesday.

 

Those retailers can now count grocery supplies in buildings other than their main store toward meeting an alcohol selling requirement.

 

Some lawmakers and gas station convenience store owners say it gives big businesses a leg up on the competition calling it a “carve out” for the big retailers.

 

 

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Green Township residents support Big Rapids Community Library

 

Residents of Green Township want the township board to put a millage supporting the Big Rapids Community Library on the August ballot.

 

Township residents presented their ideas at a board meeting on Tuesday saying the millage will help the more than 2,000 children under 17 years of age that are living in poverty in Mecosta County and don't have access to computers or online services at home.

 

Board members are requesting more specific information on language and millage rates.

 

 

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Flint task force critical of emergency managers and state officials

 

Governor Snyder's task force investigating the Flint water crisis says the situation is a failure of leadership in the state, a clear case of environmental injustice, and a reason to change the state’s emergency manager law.

 

Co-chair Ken Sikkema told a legislative panel that cultural changes in state government need to start at the top.

 

The panel recommends creating an ombudsman position that could provide an outlet for citizen complaints in communities with a state-appointed emergency manager, and it says the Department of Health and Human Services has essentially lost its focus on public health.

 

Task force member Chris Kolb also emphasizes the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's lack of communication with Flint residents saying ,“The tone of communication from government was to deny and discredit individuals with a different opinion.”

 

 

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Newaygo man going to jail for at least 3 years for sex crimes

 

A Newaygo Co. man is going to jail for the foreseeable future after being sentenced on sex crime charges against an autistic child in Kent County.

 

53-year old Richard Allen Sale, of Newaygo, pleaded "no contest" to a charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

 

He was sentenced today to 3 to 15 years in prison.  

 

Police say the sexual assaults happened at a home in Wyoming, starting in 2003.

 

Sale was already serving 45 months to 50 years in jail on a charge of first-degree CSC out of Mecosta County.  

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Equal Pay Day observed in Michigan

 

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, an observance that symbolizes how far into 2016 women have to work to catch up to the wages men earned in 2015.

 

And some Michiganders are coming together to highlight these inequities in pay.

 

Nina Muckenthaler with Michigan NOW says despite over five decades of federal law prohibiting gender-based wage discrimination, women in the United States earn 79 cents for every dollar men are paid.

 

And in Michigan it’s just 75 cents.

 

"That means that we are paid 25 percent less for the work that we are do simply because we are women. I think it goes beyond simply a matter of dollars it’s also a matter of what’s right and what’s wrong,” she says.

 

The Michigan Equal Pay Coalition is encouraging folks from all walks of life to join a rally on the Capitol steps encourage lawmakers to pass legislation to close the wage gap.

 

Participants are encouraged to wear red, to symbolize that women’s wages are “in the red.”

 

 

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Proposed legislation would block oil pipelines in the Great Lakes

 

A Michigan lawmaker plans to introduce legislation prohibiting future oil pipelines in the Great Lakes.

 

Senator Rick Jones says he also wants Enbridge's Line 5 to undergo a safety review and adds that it's only a matter of time before the pipeline bursts.

 

Line 5 carries 23 million gallons of oil per day beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

 

 

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Big Rapids man sentenced to at least 12 years in jail after being convicted of assaulting police officers

 

A Big Rapids man convicted of two counts of assault with intent to commit murder of two police officers is going to jail for at least 12 years.  

 

According to court documents, 28-year old Wesley Thomas Snyder was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison.

 

In January of 2015, two Big Rapids DPS officers were called to the Appleridge Apartments on an assault call. When the officers tried to make contact with Snyder, he shot two arrows at them.

 

Neither officer was shot, but one of them was injured when he fell down a flight of stairs during the ensuing struggle with Snyder.

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BRPS Superintendent sees smoother second year for staff & students regarding M-STEP testing

 

M-STEP testing is starting this week for students in Big Rapids Public Schools. 

 

Last year, numerous school districts across the state had a number of complaints about the computerized test including not enough lab time for students and overwhelmed school staff.

 

However, BRPS Superintendent Tim Haist believes it will be a lot smoother this year.  

 

“We are more prepared this time around, we know what some of the pitfalls were in previous years and we were able to make changes. We are also hoping the technology will be more effective and more efficient.” Haist said.

 

One challenge Haist does see is transitioning from the M-STEP to the SAT and ACT because there really any breathing time for staff.  

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Mecosta Co. Sheriff's Office to offer free boater safety classes

 

As the weather gets warmer in Mecosta County, the sheriff’s office wants to make sure you’re certified to operate a motorized boat personal watercraft.   

 

The Sheriff’s office will be holding a free boaters safety class on April 30th from 10am to 4pm at the Barryton Public Library.

 

Sheriff Todd Purcell says with recent laws enacted and an effort to make the waters safer, younger boaters need to be certified and those who own a personal watercraft need to be licensed.

 

Purcell says topics covered in the class include, rules of the water, operating skills, boating safety and more.

 

He says there will be more boater safety classes offered at parks in Mecosta County later this summer. 

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MSTEP testing shortened

 

Students will be spending less time taking the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, or M-STEP, this spring.

 

Officials at the Michigan Department of Education say it is cutting back the amount of time students will spend on the test to no more than eight hours, down from 16 hours last year.

 

Complaints about the exam taking too long, with reports of students being exhausted and school staff being overwhelmed prompted the change.

 

 

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Michigan credit unions promote financial literacy for children

 

It's never too early to begin learning how to manage your money.

 

That's the message credit unions hope to foster this month, and they're starting with the youngest Michiganders.

 

The children's book "Bunny Money" by Rosemary Wells can be a tool to educate kids about the value of money and how to budget.

 

Michigan Credit Union League spokesperson Beth Troost says they will donate more than 7,500 copies of the book to local libraries, to help parents and caregivers open the dialogue.

 

"It's one of those topics that they shy away from, thinking that it's either too advanced or too worrisome. But familiarizing children with money is something that if you start it at a young age, it will become more natural for them to be inquisitive about it as they get older. "

 

The program, called Money Smart Kids Read, will take place April 23rd through the 30th, as part of Money Smart Week.

 

More than 200 libraries across the state will host story-time events, and participating families will get to keep a copy of the book.

 

More information is at MoneySmartWeek.org.

 

 

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Lead tainted water systems widespread in Michigan and the nation

 

An analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data shows that lead tainted water supplies are a problem across the country, not just in Flint.

 

The Associated Press report says nearly 1,400 water systems serving 3.6 million Americans exceeded the federal lead standard at least once between 2013 and 2015.

 

The study included 27 systems in Michigan with ten of those being in schools.

 

However, 22 of those systems have not exceeded limits since January of 2015.

 

 

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Rockford student pleads guilty to terrorism charges

 

Authorities say the 17-year-old who made alleged threats against Rockford Public Schools last September is pleading guilty.

 

Jagar Ray Schwartz appeared in court last week and plead guilty to making a false threat of terrorism.

 

As part of his plea deal, another charge of breaking and entering with intent in another incident will be dismissed.

 

Schwartz was sentenced to 270 days in the jail and five years probation. He’ll also pay restitution.

 

Police say the Belmont teen wrote on Instagram that “I’m not complaining, I’m just gonna shoot everybody up.”

 

He allegedly said that he was upset over being forced to “repeat” the 11th grade.

 

 

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FSU researcher says childhood obesity is a nation-wide epidemic

 

Childhood obesity is a problem not only in Michigan, but around the country. Ferris State University Early Childhood Major Chesea Knott has spent a lot of time researching the issue and she says the problem is caused mostly by life style. And, she notes, the problem is wide spread.

 

A lot of it has to do with the technology today, the advertising of fast food, the lack of physical activity. Seventeen percent [are] considered obese – children ages two through nineteen, that's 12.7 million children that are obese.”

 

Knott adds that budget cuts in education often result in physical education classes being compromised or eliminated entirely in our schools. A report by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the American Heart Association has found that while nearly 75 percent of states require physical education in elementary through high school, over half of states permit students to substitute other activities for their required physical education credit.

 

Knott goes on to explain that childhood obesity often leads to multiple health problems in children.

 

It can cause breathing problems like asthma, it can cause sleep apnea, it puts a child at risk for cardio-vascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.”

 

And, she says, not only do health issues that develop in childhood carry over into adulthood, obesity causes non-physical problems as well.

 

It can also cause self-esteem issues – it can cause children to be bullied.”

 

Knott has had health issues related to eating habits and lack of exercise and, as a result, she hopes to make a difference for children with similar problems in the future.

 

I work with children and my major's Early Childhood [Education] and so I think childhood obesity is very common. Someday, I want to have my own physical fitness class for children,” she says.

 

Knott is also publishing the following letter in hopes of drawing attention to what she sees as a nation-wide epidemic.

 

Nationwide Epidemic

Child Obesity is a nationwide epidemic. Obesity can affect every organ in a child’s body. It can do so in a much more profound way than in adults, because children are still growing and developing. Whether we want to believe it or not, child obesity is on the rise and is increasing. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control Prevention), 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged two to nineteen are obese. This is a serious issue and can lead to many health problems later in life. Children become overweight for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activities, unhealthy eating patterns and what the child is consuming, or a combination these. It is a rare case that a child becomes obese from a medical condition. The parent or guardian of the child has a lot of influence on the child and their physical activity and eating habits. Obesity impacts children’s health and emotional stability.

It is important that a child gets the necessary physical activity he or she needs along with the right nutrition. My recommendations for prevention:

1. Eating healthy

2. Serving child sized portions at meals

3. Engaging in physical activity as a family

Children can be picky eaters and it is not always easy to get a child to eat the right foods and the amount of physical activity he or she needs. There are plenty of new hip recipes for healthy meals online along with upbeat and energizing videos online to get your child up and moving.

CHELSEA KNOTT

Early Childhood Education Program

Ferris State University

 

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UPDATE: Six Lakes man now charged with killing dog in Mecosta Co.

 

 

UPDATE: 33-year old Marc Alan Jura has officially been charged with one count of killing/torturing an animal.

 

Bond was set at $40,000. 

 

_______________________________________  

 

 

Michigan State Police say they arrested a man this week who's accused of abusing a dog in Mecosta County. 

 

Troopers say they were called to a home in Wheatland Township where they found a dog that sustained numerous injuries and significant wounds.

 

During an investigation it was discovered the owner of the dog no longer wanted the animal asked the suspect to kill it.  

 

Troopers completed an investigation at the scene and arrested a 33-year old man from Six Lakes.

 

Due to the serious injuries to the dog, troopers euthanized the dog at the scene.  

 

Evidence was collected at the scene relating to the manner in which the dog was tortured.  

 

The suspect was lodged in the Mecosta County Jail.

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Tax scams increasing as deadline approaches

 

Central Michigan University's Office of Information Technology says the number of tax fraud cases is up from last year.

 

And, the problem is not unique to CMU.

 

A number of universities are reporting similar fraudulent activity targeting their employees and the IRS is working directly with affected individuals to correct their tax filings.

 

Officials at the Michigan State Police post in Mount Pleasant say tax fraud complaints are the largest volume of calls they get this time of year.

 

 

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Governor Snyder facing another lawsuit

 

Joining a growing number of law suits against Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials, the Detroit Public Schools Board is filing a class-action lawsuit for the deterioration of the city's schools.

 

An attorney for the school board says the treatment of students since the state took over DPS in 1999, and the actions of three emergency managers, has caused life-long damage to the students.

 

Detroit's public school system faces $3.4 billion in debt and other obligations. The Michigan Senate recently approved a $48.7 million emergency spending package for the school district.

 

 

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Michigan families struggle to pay for child-care

 

Some Michigan families pay more than half their salaries to cover the cost of child care, according to a new report that examines solutions to what it calls a "child-care crisis " in America.

 

The Economic Policy Institute highlights how high-quality child care is out of reach for many families.

 

For example, the cost of care for a single infant is just under 10-thousand dollars a year in Michigan.

 

At Michigan United, Meredith Loomis-Quinlan works on child-care advocacy, and explains that the child-care crisis also is a problem for child-care workers themselves who earn nearly 40 percent less than the median hourly wage of workers in other occupations.

 

"These child-care workers who are giving so much to all of us frequently are not paid enough to even provide the basics for their own families. What a shame, where we’re living in a place where those who are caring for all of our children have to think about struggling to put food on the table for their own children,” she says.

 

Loomis-Quinlan says Michigan United is joining the national call to pay child-care providers at least 15-dollars an hour.

 

According to the report, one in seven child-care workers nationally lives below the official poverty line.

 

 

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The price of stamps going down

 

Starting next week, the price of a stamp will be getting cheaper.

 

The price of a first-class stamp drops two cents, to 47 cents. Postcard stamps will drop in price by one cent to $0.34, two-ounce letter stamps will drop from $0.71 to $0.68 and three-ounce letter stamps will drop from $0.93 to $0.89.  Commercial prices will also decrease.

 

Officials at the United States Postal Service say the reduction is a result of a mandate from the Postal Regulatory Commission after the government failed to renew a 2014 surcharge instated to help recover $4.6 billion in revenue losses due to the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

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Fire at Falcon Head Golf Club

 

Employees at the Falcon Head Golf Club are still assessing the damage following an overnight fire.

 

The blaze started in a pole barn at around 9:00 pm on Wednesday and destroyed around 40 golf carts. It took three fire departments to bring the fire under control.

 

No one was injured and the cause remains under investigation.

 

 

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Group hopes Bowl-A-Thon will raise needed funding for the Stone Pavilion at School Section Lake Veterans Park

 

A local group is hoping a fun event for all ages will help raise funds to continue the restoration of the School Section Lake Stone Pavilion.

 

On Saturday at 1pm, the Remus Area Historical Society will be holding a bowl-a-thon at Remus Bowling Center.

 

Linda Howard says her group is close to raising the $75,000 needed for restoration, and is hopeful this event will get them even closer.

 

"Currently windows have been replaced, stone masonry work to the building will occur soon and we also want to replace the roof of the pavilion." she said. 

 

Along with bowling there will be drawings for great prizes as well.

 

If you want for information about the stone pavilion restoration project, visit www.schoolsectionlakepavilionproject.org

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Reed City Hospital presented with Top Rural Hospital Award

 

After being named a 2015 Top Rural Hospital in the State of Michigan in November, Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital was recently presented with the award.

 

The award is given by the Leapfrog Group, an organization that analyzes hospital data across the nation.

 

The Top Rural Hospital award is based on low infection rates, preventing medical errors and appropriate staffing.

 

Reed City Hospital was one of only three hospitals in the state and 24 in the nation to receive the award.

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O'Neil elected as District 5 Mecosta Co. Commissioner

 

Mecosta resident Tom O’Neil is the new District 5 Commissioner for Mecosta County.

 

He was sworn in during Thursday board of commission meeting.

 

O’Neil takes over for former commissioner Art Adelman who resigned back in February because the new home he moved to was not in the district he was representing.

 

O’Neil, who was on the Mecosta Township board for six years, says he’s excited to start this next challenge. 

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MDEQ rejects air quality proposal

 

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says it will not follow a recommendation that would limit the number of chemicals monitored in the air.

 

Officials say the department will continue its broad range of tracking nearly all potential toxic substances.

 

The proposal comes from an evaluation of a number of environmental rules in the state by a group of representatives from Michigan businesses and others.

 

MDEQ Air Quality Division Chief Lynn Fielder says says too much outside influence went into the proposed changes.

 

She also notes the MDEQ currently monitors over 600 chemicals, well over the federal EPA requirement of less than 200 chemicals.

 

 

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Courser and Gamrat claim false imprisonment in potential lawsuit

 

Former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat claim they were falsely arrested and falsely imprisoned during a16 hour legislative session that ended with Courser resigning and Gamrat being expelled from the House of Representatives last year.

 

The pair filed a document with the Michigan Court of Claims saying they may sue the House of Representatives for more than half a million dollars.

 

The notice of intent names Speaker Kevin Cotter and their former aides and argues there was a conspiracy to end Courser and Gamrat's political careers.

 

Courser and Gamrat claim they were the victims of undercover surveillance operations, illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping, extortion, secret meetings, threats and intimidation, identity theft, invasion of privacy, and hacking.

 

 

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Research suggests increase in allergy cases due to Americans being too clean

 

All the runny noses and itchy eyes tell us it's allergy season in Michigan.

 

From April to June, grass pollen causes problems for many – then come fall, it will be ragweed and other pollen-shedding plants that cause misery.

 

If it seems like more people have allergies than ever before, that is indeed the case. Dr. Bill Miller is an author and blogger who studies the causes of allergies.

 

He says one problem is many Americans are too clean – researchers call it the hygiene hypothesis.

 

Miller says we've upset the balance of internal germs in our bodies by protecting ourselves more than our ancestors did.

 

"They had the cows and the goats, and all the pigs and everything. The family unit lived right on top of the farm animals. Kids used to roll in the dirt. Kids spent almost all their day outside. Now, in our modern society, we live indoors."

 

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology cites research that suggests early antibiotic use changes the bacterial flora, which affects the development of allergic diseases, including asthma. Other studies suggest we may be using too many products such as acetaminophen to treat children.

 

 

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Snyder faces racketeering lawsuit over Flint water crisis

 

Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials are now facing a federal racketeering, or RICO, lawsuit in connection with the Flint water crisis.

 

The legal firm Bern Ripka LLP of New York, which also represented thousands of workers in World Trade Center environmental litigation, announced the 17 count lawsuit at a press conference on Wednesday.

 

The suit claims the decision by Snyder, Flint's state appointed emergency managers, and others, to switch the city's water supply to the Flint River was done as part of a scheme to balance the city's budget.

 

The lawsuit names more than 400 plaintiffs and says the state had the option to use federal bankruptcy protections for Flint rather than appoint an emergency manager with a mandate to balance the books.

 

 

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Osceola Co. Commission on Aging looking for more funding

 

The Commission on Aging in Osceola County is moving forward on a plan to ask voters in August to approve a millage that will allow their operations to grow as the county’s aging population continues to increase.

 

Currently the COA gets funding from a millage of 0.8 mill that was passed back in 1986.

 

Officials say they would like to ask for an additional 0.2 mill over the next four years.

 

The COA will go back to the Osceola Co. Board of Commission in a little over two weeks to seek approval of the proposal’s ballot language. 

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With 3 months left; completion near for Big Rapids Baldwin Street Bridge

The finish line is in sight for construction workers and Big Rapids city officials with just over three months until the Baldwin Street Bridge is complete.

 

Big Rapids Public Works Deputy Director Roger Schniedt says middle beams have been installed; now construction crews will begin concrete work for the deck of the bridge.

 

“Over the next three weeks, crews will start making concrete formations for the deck of the bridge as well as building diaphragms to make sure the box beams are stable.” “After that, we will focus on the railings of the bridge.”He said.

 

Construction will also start on roads on the east side of the bridge to widen them. The bridge project is expected to be finished by July 1st.    

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Human trafficking hotline now part of law in Michigan

 

A bill requiring a human trafficking hotline number be posted in rest stops, airports, and bus stations has been signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

 

A Michigan human trafficking commission says it's a low-cost way to provide help for victims and educate the public about the problem.

 

Attorney General Bill Schuette's office says human trafficking is a $32 billion industry.

 

 

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Michigan SOS replaces malfunctioning online system

 

Officials at the Michigan Secretary of State say they are launching a temporary alternative online renewal system for license-plate tabs.

 

This following complaints by users of the current system, ExpressSOS.com, was malfunctioning.

 

As of last year, ExpressSOS.com was still under construction after 10 years when the state fired the system's vendor, computer giant Hewlett-Packard.

 

A link to the temporary Online Renewal System has been posted on their web site.

 

A lawsuit over the state’s $49 million contract with HP is still in court.

 

 

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Former Michigan lawmaker jailed on drug charges

 

A former member of Michigan's House of Representatives is heading to jail on drug charges.

 

Roy Schmidt from Grand Rapids will spend the next 45 days behind bars after pleading no contest in court on Tuesday.

 

Schmidt claimed protection under Michigan's medical marijuana law when police seized three pounds of marijuana and 71 pot plants from him.

 

The amount in Schmidt's possession exceeds the amount allowed under the law.

 

 

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Racism in Michigan's food industry highlighted at MSU

 

An expert panel at Michigan State University is bringing awareness to the issue of "structural racism" in the American food system.

 

Director of the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems Rich Pirog (peer-og) says not only in Michigan, but around the world, people of color in the food and agriculture industry are exploited, subjected to harsh work conditions, and paid very low wages.

 

"If they work hard, people should be paid a living wage, and that’s an underlying economic element for the issues around structural racism, is that there’s a lack of economic justice for people of color."

 

Pirog notes that racism permeates many aspects of the food system in Michigan.

 

 

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Big Rapids Township approves 2016 road improvement projects

 

Big Rapids Township is moving forward with four road projects this year.

 

The projects total just over $230,000 which will come from a millage that was previously approved in 2014.

 

The improvemet projects include various crack seal projects, chip and fog Old Millpond Rd. 220th Avenue to 17 Mile Rd. as well as Thornapple and Seneca roads.

 

The Big Rapids Township Board approved the projects during its meeting Tuesday night. 

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Cadillac man now facing 10 years in jail for McBain break-in

 

A 23-year old Cadillac man who was sentenced to 11 months in jail for break-ins in Mecosta County is now facing up to ten years behind bars after pleading no contest to a break-in of a Missaukee County business.

 

Nicholas John Bailey pleaded no contest to a charge of breaking and entering a building with intent following an incident May 28th at the McBain Car Wash.

 

His bond was revoked.  

 

Bailey along with his co-defendant Dickie Lee Goodwin, broke into Hoaglund Hardware in Tustin back in September and was linked to over 30 break-ins at businesses in Lake, Wexford, Mecosta, Missaukee, Clare and Osceola counties.  

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Manton woman pinned under car for several hours

 

A 25-year old Manton woman is recovering in a hospital after being pinned underneath a car for several hours.

 

Deputies in Wexford County say they were called to a home on N. 45 Rd near E. M-42, that’s where they say a vehicle began to rolling backwards when the victim tried to stop it.

 

The Manton woman then fell and became pinned under the car and wasn’t discovered for several hours.

 

She was taken to Munson HealthCare in Cadillac for injuries sustained and exposure to the elements.

 

The accident remains under investigation.

  

 

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Snyder says Michigan is on the right path

 

Governor Rick Snyder says there are “lessons to be learned” from the Flint water crisis and the struggling Detroit Public Schools but overall Michigan is on the right path.

 

Snyder made the remarks Monday at an annual Governor's Lunch in Macomb County.

 

Snyder also said the state is working diligently to improve roads in Michigan in the next few years.

 

He says the “Infrastructure that’s under the ground (is) in just as bad shape as the roads.”

 

 

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Consumer's Energy set to shut down seven power plants

 

Consumer's Energy is shutting down seven of its oldest coal-burning power plants later this month in order to reduce mercury emissions.

 

Officials say customers should see no power interruptions and most of the electricity will be replaced by a natural gas plant in Jackson.

 

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy both say Michigan will need to build new power plants in the future because many other older coal-burning power plants are being closed throughout the Midwest.

 

 

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Michigan getting nearly $75M in federal funds for housing

Michigan is getting nearly $75 million from the federal “Hardest Hit” fund to help stabilize the housing market in the state.

 

Officials say $55 million of those dollars will go to tear down blighted structures and help homeowners struggling under the weight of expensive or underwater mortgages in Flint and Detroit.

 

Governor Snyder says the money is critical in helping people stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure while while eliminating blight and revitalizing neighborhoods across the state.

 

 

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DNR declares 2015 hunting season fatality free

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reporting a fatality free 2015 hunting season.

 

It's the second year in a row that no one was killed in a hunting-related accident in the state.

 

The DNR says there were 13 incidents involving injuries with more than 60 percent of those resulting from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

 

An overall trend toward fewer fatalities and injuries started in 1988 when completion of a hunter education class became mandatory.

 

Since then more than 600,000 hunters have completed the classes.

 

 

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New cell phone scam

 

The Western Michigan Better Business Bureau is reporting instances of a credit card scam targeting cell phone users in the area.

 

The victim is contacted by the scammer with the caller ID showing up as the number of someone the victim knows, such as a spouse or child.

 

However, the call turns out to be someone looking to get them to sign up for a credit card and is actually a phishing scam where the scammer is posing as a legitimate company and wants to get the victim's personal financial information.

 

Officials say scam is pretty new and shows sophistication on the part of the scammer but it's no different from other phishing scams via text or email.

 

 

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Candidate for 102nd State House District addresses the Big Rapids City Commission

 

Manton Mayor and republican candidate for the 102ndState House District seat Michele Hoitenga came to Big Rapids to meet with city officials.

 

Hoitenga addressed commissioners during its meeting Monday night at City Hall.

 

Being a mayor of a smaller town, she says there needs to be more focus in Lansing on dwindling revenue sharing funds to smaller communities like Big Rapids and Manton.

 

"As a Mayor, the revenue sharing keeps decreasing and that's really disturbing and our communities are suffering" she said.  

 

Another issue Hoitenga wants to focus on is second amendment rights for residents.

 

Mecosta County resident Ormand Hook is also running for the seat current representative Phil Potvin is vacating due to term-limits. 

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State parks open overnight for stargazers as International Dark Sky Week begins

 

International Dark Sky Week starts on Monday to bring awareness to light pollution.

 

Michiganders have opportunities to enjoy the night sky at 20 of the state's dark-sky preserves and other parks.

 

DNR spokesperson Stephanie Wirtz says the parks will be open overnight for self-guided stargazing.

 

"You don't really have to know a lot. It's fun to just go out and look at the stars. There are some apps that you can download on your smartphone that can help you see constellations and identify the constellations, but just dress for the weather and enjoy yourself."

 

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, light pollution has negative impacts on the environment and health, and wastes energy.

 

More information on participating parks and their locations can be found at the DNR web site.

 

 

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Snyder recall moves forward

 

A recall petition by activist Robert Davis against Governor Rick Snyder can move forward following a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge.

 

Davis' petition was rejected by the Board of State Canvassers, but Judge Judith Levy says that determination was “made in an arbitrary and capricious manner” and she voided the board's action.

 

The ruling means Davis can begin circulating the petitions seeking to force a Snyder recall election over the Flint water crisis.

 

 

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New law grants access to online accounts of deceased loved ones

 

A new law in Michigan gives authorized individuals access to peoples' emails, Facebook, and Google accounts after they have died.

 

State Representative Anthony Forlini says the bill creates a legal way for designated individuals to access social media accounts and emails of loved ones.

 

A Google representative says the new law offers the “right balance” between privacy and access.

 

 

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Police search for suspect in road rage incident

 

Michigan State Police are looking for a suspect in a road rage incident in Isabella County.

 

Troopers say the suspect pulled up behind the victim's vehicle near N. Vandcar Road last week, hit the victim's vehicle from behind and then fled the scene.

 

The suspect's vehicle is described as a white, early 2000's Chevrolet/GMC S-10/Sonoma type truck with the back window covered by a tarp.

 

The driver is described as a white male, in his late teens to early 20's with sandy brown hair.

 

 

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Enbridge refutes pipeline study

 

Enbridge company officials say a study by the University of Michigan Water Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is flawed.

 

The study found that more than 700 miles of Great Lakes coastline are in a danger of potential contamination from a spill from Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs under the straits of Mackinac.

 

Enbridge contends the study's model and illustrations "focus on an unrealistic volume of oil released."

 

 

 

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Mecosta County Senior Center fundraiser draws a big crowd

 

The Mecosta Commission on Aging and Senior Center's bank account is a little fuller following their March for Meals dinner-dance fundraiser on Friday. Director Cynthia Mallory says the turn-out was impressive.

 

We had to make sure we had enough dishes just to feed everyone. We have, I would imagine, 130 – 140 people tonight.”

 

The event is one of two annual fundraisers, the other being the Subaru Share the Love fundraiser in December, and Mallory says a lot of seniors in Mecosta County would go hungry if it weren't for these events.

 

This directly funds our programming for our Senior Meals program.”

 

Meals Coordinator Shawn Sredersas notes that half their funding comes from grants and foundational funding and the other half comes of fund raisers and public donations. She says that puts a lot of food on a lot of seniors tables.

 

The meals that we do annually are about 58,000 meals and we travel almost 100,000 miles to deliver those meals.”

 

The meals are what Sredersas calls “comfort food” but are prepared with a senior demographic in mind - low salt, low sodium, and low sugar, but not bland.

 

Most of our cooking is scratch cooking, we try to make it as home style as possible.”

 

The Center prepares hot meals for delivery Monday through Friday, and they stock up seniors with frozen meals for the weekends or when their drivers can't get out on the road.

 

But Meals on Wheels isn't the only food service they provide. Mallory says at their congregate meal site, where seniors can stop by for a meal, they served 540 meals in January alone.

 

We get really busy. We have a couple of really busy days – Tuesdays and Fridays are our busiest.”

 

Mallory notes the public is always welcome with a $3.00 suggested donation for age 60 years or older and $5.00 for those under 60.

 

 

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Autism rates remain steady, earlier testing needed

 

April is Autism Awareness Month and newly-released numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show rates of autism spectrum disorder in the U-S remain steady with one in 68 children having the disorder.

 

Spokesperson Dr. Stuart Shapira says they found more children need to be tested at an earlier age.

 

"When concerns are raised, it's important that parents and providers move forward to get that first evaluation, and parents don't have to wait if there's concern. They can go through their state's early intervention program and local school system, and get that evaluation for free."

 

The report says about half of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder weren't tested for the first time until they were about four years of age, and that boys are almost five times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

 

 

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Police searching for missing CMU student

 

Police are searching for a Central Michigan University student who was reported missing late Wednesday.

 

Officials say 23-year-old Joshua Thomas Palmer is described as 5’9” tall, 140 pounds, slender build with short red hair and may be in a 2005 Black Pontiac Vibe with a Michigan plate of EZ82Z.

 

If you see Palmer or the vehicle the CMU Police Department asks you to call them at (989) 774-3081.

 

 

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2016 fishing season licenses available

 

Friday is the first day to get a new Michigan fishing license for this year's fishing season.

 

Anglers 17 years and older need a license to fish which costs $26.

 

Senior 65 years or older can get a license for just $11.

 

The licenses are good until the end of March 2017.

 

 

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Amish buggy hit by SUV near Remus

 

Two adults and two children are recovering following a run-in between and SUV and an Amish buggy.

 

Police say the accident happened on South Rolland Road in Rolland Township just southeast of Remus Thursday morning.

 

The Isabella County Sheriff's Office says a 61-year-old man hit the buggy injuring all four passengers and the buggy's horse.

 

The passengers were taken to a Grand Rapids hospital while the horse was caught and taken back to the Amish farm.

 

 

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Group warns of chemicals in canned foods

 

Chemicals in the linings of most food cans may be dangerous to consumers – that’s the finding of a new report just released by six nonprofit groups.

 

They tested nearly 200 cans from 19 states distributed to some major retailers by producers including Campbell’s, Del Monte and General Mills.

 

Mike Schade, with the group "Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families," says two thirds of the cans were lined with an epoxy containing Bisphenol A, or BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical.

 

"This is a chemical that is in the food packaging and studies have shown that it can migrate out of the cans and get into the food that we eat, eventually make its way into our bodies and may be harmful to our health."

 

The report recommends that consumers buy fresh fruits and vegetables, look for alternative packaging, such as glass jars, or buy only from manufacturers that disclose the safety of their can linings.

 

 

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