State Roundup

Grand Haven
48-foot-tall cross  to become anchor

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) — Grand Haven officials have approved plans to convert a 48-foot-tall cross that has stood for half a century on city-owned property into an anchor after residents and others opposed the religious display overlooking the Grand River.
The Grand Haven City Council approved a resolution Monday on a 3-2 vote to limit access to the Dewey Hill property as well as change the display, The Muskegon Chronicle and the Grand Haven Tribune reported.
The cross has been displayed periodically since 1964. City leaders recommended a policy to “limit intrusion on the dune, protect vegetation, limit erosion, reduce debris and litter and generally preserve the dune from adverse impacts.” Dewey Hill is considered a critical dune.
Under the changes, an American flag will continue to be displayed on Dewey Hill. Mayor Pro-tem Michael Fritz called Grand Haven a “diverse community” with many different religions and said that it’s time City Council took that into consideration.
“You can look up there and see an anchor and think it’s a cross in your mind,” Fritz said. “The anchor is more acceptable in everybody’s eyes. We have to move forward.”
Grand Haven Mayor Geri McCaleb and council member Dennis Scott spoke out against the planned changes.
“It’s sad to see a 50-year-old tradition laid to rest,” McCaleb said.
The vote comes after months of debate carried out in part on Facebook by the groups Keep the Grand Haven Cross and Remove the Grand Haven Cross. Council member John Hierholzer also brought up the price of potential litigation as a factor of why he voted for the resolution.
“We’ve spent $12,000 on this and we haven’t even gone to court,” Hierholzer said. “I don’t want your tax dollars to keep going to have your cross or your nativity scene up there.”
The cross has most recently only been raised for the summertime Sunday evening Worship on the Waterfront services, which are sponsored by First Reformed Church of Grand Haven and held across the river. Under the plans, the pole atop the hill may only be configured as an anchor.
Anyone who requests use of the anchor display for purposes other than in conjunction with an Independence Day celebration, the Coast Guard Festival or a Musical Fountain program will have to pay a fee to the city, City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

Mount Clemens
Men in 2009 sub shop murder not eligible for parole

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — A judge is sticking with no-parole sentences for two young men convicted of abducting and killing a Detroit-area sub shop customer whose body was found in an abandoned home in 2009.
Ihab Masalmani and Robert Taylor were granted a second hearing because the U.S. Supreme Court says convicted killers under 18 can’t automatically be given a life sentence. But after hearing evidence about their troubled childhood and other issues, a Macomb County judge says a no-parole sentence still fits the crime.
Judge Diane Druzinski announced the sentences Tuesday.
Matt Landry was abducted from a sub shop parking lot in Eastpointe. Masalmani now is 23 years old, and Taylor is 22.
Defense lawyers argued for a chance at parole. Prosecutors argued the opposite.

Bay City
Saginaw River shipping traffic fell to 10-year low

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) — Saginaw River shipping traffic fell to a 10-year low in 2014 as cold weather shortened the season and a decline in cargo for construction was felt.
The Bay City Times reports that 110 ship visits were recorded in the Saginaw River from around May to mid-December, down from 139 in 2013 and nearly 70 percent fewer than the 347 visits recorded in 2005.
The statistics are kept by Todd Shorkey, a reporter for the website, which tracks shipping activity.
The decade-long decline has been almost constant. Shorkey says the ship visits recorded in 2013 was up slightly from 2012, when 135 ships visited. He says the decline in 2014 can be attributed in part to a shortened shipping season brought on by a cold winter.

Grand Rapids
New MSU research center  to cost about $88 million

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University is building an $88.1 million research facility in downtown Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Press reports the biomedical research center will create up to 180 new jobs, as well as retain about 80 current employees at MSU College of Human Medicine. In its application for tax breaks at the new 163,000-square-foot facility, the East Lansing-based school says the average wage will be about $90,000.
Although MSU is tax-exempt, university officials have said the project could be eligible for tax reimbursements that would help offset $29 million in cleanup and redevelopment costs.
The new facility will be designed by the same Massachusetts-based architectural firm responsible for the medical school’s Secchia Center.
The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is expected to consider the tax break application on Thursday.

Mount Clemens
Suspect teen’s murder to receive mental evaluation

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — A judge has ordered a mental evaluation for the Michigan man accused of murdering a 14-year-old girl found several months ago on a popular Macomb County nature trail.
James VanCallis of Goodells is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and assault with intent to rape in the death of April Millsap. Authorities say he hit the teen with a motorcycle helmet and stomped on her in July while she was walking her dog along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada. They say VanCallis planned to rape Millsap but he was interrupted by a witness.
A Macomb County judge granted the defense attorney’s request that VanCallis undergo a mental and culpability evaluation.
The Detroit News reports the attorney maintains there is no DNA evidence linking his client to the crime.

Elmwood Twp.
New owners need permit for turbine

ELMWOOD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The new owners of Michigan’s first utility-grade wind turbine have been told they must obtain a zoning permit before it can begin operating again.
Officials in Leelanau County’s Elmwood Township had originally said Heritage Sustainable Energy LLC didn’t need any permits for the 160-foot turbine wind turbine along highway M-72. But an attorney informed the township supervisor that an ownership condition doesn’t allow the sale of the turbine to a private entity, so the company must go through the full permit process to have the condition removed.
The vice president for operations at Heritage tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle that the company is willing to work with the township and already has a decommissioning plan in place.
The 19-year-old turbine was shut down in 2013 due to problems obtaining parts and service.
Heritage purchased the turbine early last month and planned to have it up and running last Friday. The Traverse City-based company operates two large wind farms.