State Roundup

Authorities say traffic deaths less than 900 in 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan traffic deaths totaled less than 900 last year for the first time since 2011 despite an increase in the total number of crashes in 2014, officials announced Monday.

There were 876 traffic deaths in 2014, down 8 percent from 951 in 2013, the state's Office of Highway Safety Planning said. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will review the figures to determine the reason for the decline, said Michael L. Prince, director of the office.

"The next step is further review and analysis ... to better understand these changes," Prince said in a statement.

According to the figures from the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, alcohol-involved crash fatalities dropped 17 percent, from 284 in 2013 to 236 in 2014. Drug-involved traffic deaths were down 9 percent, from 165 in 2013 to 150.

Overall traffic crashes increased 3 percent, from 289,061 in 2013 to 298,699. Declines were noted in motorcyclist and bicyclist fatalities. Motorcyclist fatalities were down 16 percent, from 128 in 2013 to 107. Bicyclist fatalities fell from 27 in 2013 to 21.

Deaths involving commercial motor vehicles increased for the third year in a row, up 12 percent, from 94 in 2013 to 105 in 2014.

Traffic injuries were nearly unchanged, at 71,031 in 2013 versus 71,378 in 2014. Crashes involving cellphones decreased 3 percent, from 689 in 2013 to 666 in 2014, while cellphone-involved fatal crashes decreased from 4 in 2013 to 2 in 2014, according to the figures.

Arts group gives $128,000 to 53 organizations

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is awarding nearly $128,000 in grants to 53 groups working on arts and culture projects in Michigan.

The grants are supported by the organization's New Leaders Arts Council of Michigan advisory group and its Retention and Engagement program. The young leaders advisory council is dedicated to promoting the arts and culture in the state, while focusing on supporting other young artists.

John Bracey, director of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, says the grants will support projects of young artists aiming to retain, engage and mentor their peers.

Partnership works to improve duck habitate at area

ROCKWOOD, Mich. (AP) - A partnership is working to improve the habitat for ducks at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in southeastern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources says a group of volunteers recently participated in the On the Ground project. They worked the DNR staff to install 10 new nesting structures for mallards and cleaned and maintained 20 existing mallard nest structures.

The work took place in the game area's Vermet, Humphries and Long Pond units.

They also spread cattail seed heads in the Vermet Unit to increase cover for ducks. And they cleaned and maintained 30 wood duck nest boxes.

Volunteers came from a number of groups. The project is part of a partnership between the DNR and Michigan United Conservation Clubs to improve fish and wildlife habitat.

Efforts take place to bring more visitors to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Efforts are taking place in Lansing to bring more visitors to the state Capitol building and the Michigan Library & Historical Museum.

John Truscott, vice chairman of the State Capitol Commission, told the Lansing State Journal ( ) that visitors to the Capitol have held steady around 120,000 per year for years, with upticks to 150,000 some years.

At the museum, Director Sandra Clark said in an email that about 87,500 visited between fall 2013 and fall 2014, down from more than 92,000 in the 2011-12 season.

Both Truscott and Clark said efforts are taking place to boost those numbers, including partnering with area tourism officials. The Capitol Commission is considering opening the 136-year-old building on Saturdays, which hasn't happened for years because of budget cuts, Truscott said.

"It's a very serious consideration," Truscott said. "That, in the future, may help change our numbers a little bit."

The Capitol Commission also wants to build an $88 million Welcome Center on the Capitol's west lawn that would include a cafeteria, a large committee room, new rooms for education events and enhanced security measures. A parking lot would be moved underground as part of the plans.

The Welcome Center has been stalled by revenue shortfalls in the state budget, but Truscott said the plans haven't been shelved.

"We still intend to do it at some point," Truscott said. "And we do think that, given some of the educational elements we hope to build into it, it will increase visitors, as well."

White Cloud
2 brothers set to to stand trial in 1989 slaying

WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (AP) - Two western Michigan brothers are scheduled to stand trial in the slaying of an 18-year-old woman in 1989.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports two juries will be seated to decide the fates of Paul Michael Jones and Matthew Wayne Jones. The Newaygo County brothers, now in their 40s, were charged last year with first-degree murder in the beating death of Shannon Siders.

Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. The trial itself is set to begin April 20 and is expected to take about two weeks.

Siders' decomposed body was discovered by a hunter about 35 miles northwest of Grand Rapids in the Manistee National Forest three months after her disappearance. An autopsy determined she died of blunt force trauma to the head, and she had other injuries.

Published: Tue, Apr 14, 2015


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