State Roundup


Wis. dad, sons paddle 72 days around Lake Superior

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) -- A northern Wisconsin man and his three sons have made a 72-day, 1,600-mile journey by kayak around Lake Superior to raise money for charity.

Joe Bodewes of Hazelhurst set out in May from Black River Harbor in Michigan's northwestern Upper Peninsula with 14-year-old Will, 12-year-old Luke and 10-year-old Noah. They returned Monday, about two weeks ahead of schedule, the Daily Globe of Ironwood, Mich., reported.

They paddled in three kayaks, staying close to the shore of Lake Superior, which touches Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada. After rough weather in the early part of the trip, they finished with 30 consecutive days of paddling and no further weather-related breaks.

"We kind of struggled in Minnesota," Bodewes said, in part because they found relatively few camping spots along the shore. "It was cold in June and the water was around 38 degrees. Around the Fourth of July in Canada, it turned warmer, but then the bugs came out."

Bodewes is a veterinarian. His wife, Molly, and their two daughters, Lana and Kristina, were part of a welcoming party of about a dozen people at the harbor.

"There come my boys," Lana said as people along the beach applauded the kayakers.

The family paddled to raise money for HIV-positive children in Tanzania.

Ann Arbor

Mich. agency: No union for campus research aides

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- A state labor agency says University of Michigan graduate students who assist in research are not state employees and can't join a union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission on Monday affirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together. MERC director Ruthanne Okun says there's no reason to ignore that precedent.

In May, University of Michigan regents voted 6-2 to allow research assistants to form a union, although President Mary Sue Coleman did not support it.

The state labor commission took action after an objection was filed by the Midland-based Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. Samantha Montgomery, president of the Graduate Employees Organization, says the union still plans to hold an election. She says "this is not the end."


DTE Energy's Anderson to become company's chairman

DETROIT (AP) -- DTE Energy Co.'s president and chief executive Gerard M. Anderson will become the Michigan company's next chairman in September.

Detroit-based DTE announced late Monday that Anderson will succeed Anthony Earley, who is retiring as executive chairman to become the new president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Earley is the first company outsider tapped to lead the California utility.

The 53-year-old Anderson will take the role of DTE's chairman on Sept. 12, and will remain president and CEO. Earley plans to take over at PG&E on Sept. 13.

Earley said he was able to accept the new job because of his high level of confidence in Anderson and the DTE leadership team.

Port Huron

Trial to start for Mich. teen in father's slaying

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) -- The trial for the third person charged in the fatal stabbing of a Yale man was expected to start in Port Huron Tuesday.

Tia Skinner was in St. Clair County Circuit Court in the slaying of her father. The 18-year-old is charged with murder.

Paul Skinner was stabbed to death in November. His wife, Mara, was seriously wounded in the attack.

Prosecutors allege Tia Skinner was angry at her parents for forbidding her from seeing Jonathan Kurtz and confiscating her cell phone after finding texts from him. Authorities said Kurtz and James Preston broke into the Skinner's home and attacked the couple when Tia Skinner was in the basement watching a movie.

Kurtz was convicted in June. Preston was convicted last month. They will be sentenced in September.


West Mich. steel company plans to reopen foundry

ROTHBURY, Mich. (AP) -- A western Michigan steelmaker says it bought a former foundry and plans to start producing castings there next year.

The Muskegon Chronicle reported Monday that Muskegon-based Michigan Steel Inc. bought the former Kurdziel Industries foundry in the Oceana County village of Rothbury in June and plans to rename it Rothbury Steel. Michigan Steel President Chris Moein says the facility could employ between 150 and 200 people.

Moein says the company plans to start producing steel castings in the renovated plant by the first quarter of next year.

Michigan Steel's castings are used to make heavy equipment such as oil rigs, railroad cars and agricultural equipment.

Union Twp.

Runaway steer postpones appointment with processor

UNION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A steer about to face its fate at a mid-Michigan meat processing plant broke free and took authorities on a nearly mile-long chase.

The Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant reports Monday that the steer had been sold at last week's Gratiot County Fair and was trucked to the plant in Union Township near Mount Pleasant.

The absconding animal found an unbolted door and well, bolted.

Authorities say they almost captured the steer after hanging a right at a Burger King, but it again found freedom and crossed five lanes of traffic. Police finally caught the steer and said it had to be killed because the animal was large, agitated and dangerous.

A tow truck with a winch and crane finally hauled the steer back to the processing plant.

Cascade Twp.

Death certificate: Woman, 89, strangled with cord

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A death certificate shows an 89-year-old southwestern Michigan woman found dead last month in her retirement community apartment was strangled with an electrical cord.

The Grand Rapids Press and WOOD-TV report Monday that Mary Morrison died of asphyxiation at the Sentinel Pointe Retirement Community in Cascade Township, near Grand Rapids. She was found dead July 19.

The certificate says her neck was fractured in the attack.

Authorities were called after Morrison wasn't seen at breakfast that day, and she didn't answer her door when they knocked. An autopsy confirmed that the death was a homicide.

Investigators have been trying to recreate the last days of Morrison's life to see who may have had contact with her.


City probes use of federal funds for appliances

DETROIT (AP) -- The mayor's office has launched another internal investigation into Detroit's troubled Human Services Department.

Spokesman Dan Lijana says Monday that the newest probe focuses on purchases made with funds from the federal Community Services Block Grant Program.

Cities receive the grants for various local programs aimed at lower-income residents.

The Detroit Free Press reported over the weekend that about $12,000 in gift cards were purchased with the funds and used to buy home appliances, like washers and dryers.

Federal officials are looking into the purchases.

Lijana says two Human Services workers have been fired and the department's director removed this summer after an investigation into records showing that more than $210,000 intended for poor people was used to furnish an office.

Traverse City

Fire victims get equipment bill from cable company

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A cable company is apologizing after it sent bills for damaged equipment to people left homeless by fire at a northern Michigan apartment building.

"It's just unfortunate that this happened. ... The people on our end weren't realizing this was a complete loss situation. It doesn't make it right; it just explains it," said Bill Morand, a communications manager at Charter Communications Inc.

Lightning struck Alpine Apartments in Traverse City on July 18, causing a fire that left 12 families without a home. The Traverse City Record-Eagle said Charter soon sent bills or made automated phone calls demanding up to $500 for cable and Internet boxes.

"I can't bring it back. It melted to the floor," Patty Schropt told the newspaper. "I lost everything. I didn't have insurance."

Another former resident, Lyle Sutton, said he's been living with relatives while trying to bounce back. His $350 bill from Charter included money for wire clips.

"I can't afford this. I just got out of a dang fire," Sutton said.

St. Louis-based Charter backed off last week after calls from the Record-Eagle. Morand said there was an internal "communications disconnect."

Bills will be adjusted and apology letters will be sent -- "if I have to send them myself," Morand told the newspaper.

Oshtemo Twp.

Police to review video from drive-thru attack

OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Two people who sprayed a chemical into a McDonald's drive-thru window and injured several workers inside were being sought by police in west Michigan.

Video from a surveillance camera at the Oshtemo Township eatery was expected to be reviewed, Kalamazoo County Undersheriff Pali Matyas told the Kalamazoo Gazette for a story Monday.

Matyas said the chemical came from a white Chevrolet sedan about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

A man and woman in the sedan placed an order at one drive-thru window and picked up their food at a second window. The chemical was sprayed inside after a clerk, who noticed that the couple had not pulled away, re-opened the window.

"The particles that were released are consistent with a dry chemical contained in a fire extinguisher," he said.

Three to four McDonald's employees suffered burning eyes and throats. They were treated at the scene.

A county hazardous materials team was called to the restaurant, about 50 miles south of Grand Rapids.

The restaurant was cleaned, inspected and reopened for business, Matyas said.

Published: Wed, Aug 10, 2011


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