12.19.14:  Holland area woman dies in traffic accident


Ottawa County authorities report that a Holland woman died in a traffic crash Thursday afternoon.

Delores Slikkers was on East 24th Street when she attempted to pass a vehicle.  That vehicle then attempted to turn left into a private drive when the two collided.

The Slikkers vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree.

12.18.14:   Michigan teen shot near high school


WYOMING, Mich. (AP) — Police are searching for whoever shot a Grand Rapids-area high school student in the leg as he left basketball practice.

Superintendent Dave Britten says the Godfrey-Lee High School student was shot Wednesday night as he was leaving the Wyoming school. The teen and three other varsity basketball players heard multiple gunshots and ran back into the school. The victim realized in the gym that he had been shot in the leg.

Officers set up a perimeter around the school and searched the area with a police dog. School officials are reviewing security camera footage.

Britten says the victim was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive.

Britten says the basketball players aren’t kids who get into trouble.

12.17.14:  Firefighting equipment stolen


A volunteer firefighter with the Oakfield Fire Department of Kent County, had over $2,000 worth of equipment stolen.

Ryan Ford said when he went to fight a fire Sunday night, he found that his gear was gone.  It had been stolen from his vehicle during the night.


The Oakfield Fire Department says the money it will cost to replace Ford’s gear will take away from some urgent repairs that they were hoping to make before the end of the year.

12.17.14:  Grand Rapids giving police body cameras a look


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A pilot project is being discussed in Grand Rapids that could include the use of body cameras as part of a broader effort to improve police relations with the public.

Most city leaders say they support giving body cameras a try and many residents at a Tuesday hearing reiterated their desire to see that happen.

Other changes called for at the hearing include a racial profiling study, psychological testing to determine any underlying racial bias that police officers may have, a task force to study how to improve public attitudes toward police and targeted recruitment of black police officers.

Andy Bingel, president of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, says they’re not opposed to the cameras, but they worry about the cost. Roughly $1 million could be spent on cameras and Bingel says that same money could add eight to 10 officers to the department.

President Barack Obama has promoted the use of body cameras by police in the wake of the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.


12.16.14:  Former G.R. Clerk files 1 Billion dollar lawsuit


(Mlive) – Lauri Parks, fired from her job as Grand Rapids city clerk in 2013, has filed a $1 billion job discrimination lawsuit against the city, according to a document filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

A docket for the civil case shows Parks is suing Mayor George Heartwell and the city in federal court. Further information about the case has not been filed.

Parks, who was appointed to the job in 2008, was fired in October 2013 after city commissioners voted in a special meeting performance review not to renew her contract and to place her on paid administrative leave for three months. They said Parks’ dismissal was prompted by negative feedback about her job performance and that she failed to make improvements in teamwork, judgment and leadership.

She was offered the option to resign with six months’ pay or take another city job. Parks left during the closed-session performance review.

Black community members stood behind Parks and expressed outrage and disappointment at the City Commission’s decision.

An attorney for Parks alleged discrimination and said there was no basis for the firing.

Heartwell told the city’s Community Relations Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, that “at no time was Ms. Parks’ race or gender a factor in the commission’s decision.”

Parks is the granddaughter of Grand Rapids’ first African-American mayor, the late Rev. Lyman S. Parks.

12.16.14:  World War II landing ship getting new paint job


MUSEKGON, Mich. (AP) — A World War II landing ship that’s now a museum in western Michigan is getting a new paint job.

The USS LST 393 Veterans Museum in Muskegon is seeking donations and volunteers to help paint the ship.

The museum in Muskegon has launched a campaign to return the ship to its original “D-Day Gray” color scheme. It’s currently painted in “Pacific Jungle Camouflage” and hasn’t been repainted in more than seven years. The museum says it looks like it needs a fresh coat.

The fundraising goal is $30,000.

Museum manager Ron Morzfeld says it’s a “huge undertaking” to paint the 330-foot-long, 50-foot-wide ship. Potential volunteers are urged to contact the museum, which is open for tours from May through September. Donations are tax-deductible.

The landing ship tank was launched in 1942 and museum officials say more than 9,000 military members made their way into battle in Europe aboard LST 393. Decommissioned in 1946, the ship was used to carry automobiles across Lake Michigan.


12.12.14:  A robbery sends Calvin College into Lockdown mode


The Calvin College campus went into lockdown overnight after a robbery took place in the area.

The robbery was reported just before midnight near the intersection of East Beltline and Burton Street.

Police suggested the college be placed on lockdown and that students seek an area of safety inside and wait.

The all clear message was issued just before 2 a.m. after police tracked the robbery suspect across campus.

12.12.14:  Ballet company teams with ‘Polar Express’ creator


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The Grand Rapids Ballet is unveiling a new production of “The Nutcracker” that’s co-designed by Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book “The Polar Express.”

A private performance Thursday to benefit the Grand Rapids Ballet and Hospice of Michigan raised $500,000, with $250,000 going to the ballet company and $250,000 going toward the Pediatric Hospice Program.

Grand Rapids Ballet executive director Glenn Del Vecchio says the ballet company and Hospice of Michigan are “here to improve the quality of life in West Michigan” in their own ways.

The Wege Foundation also offered a $20,000 challenge grant, promising to match donations and pledges resulting from Thursday’s event. By the end of the night, organizers reported raising a total of $51,000 with the challenge grant. The first public performance is Friday night.

Grand Rapids Ballet, in preparation for the production’s premiere, mounted a $2.5 million fundraising campaign called “Stepping Forward” to retire long-term debts and build up a cash reserve as well as to fund the show. Performances are planned through Dec. 21.

“The Nutcracker” is choreographed by Val Caniparoli and co-designed by Van Allsburg and award-winning designer Eugene Lee. Caniparoli has created two previous productions of “The Nutcracker,” for the Cincinnati Ballet in 2001 and for the Louisville Ballet in 2009.

Van Allsburg grew up in Grand Rapids and “The Polar Express” movie was based on his book. The production of “The Nutcracker” could travel in coming years.


12.11.14:  Lake Michigan Credit Union collecting toys til Dec. 15th


Another area toy drive is taking place this month that will benefit a number of area children this Christmas season.


Lake Michigan Credit Union says they have organized the Holly Jolly Toy Drive and they ask that you consider dropping off a new unwrapped toy at any of their Credit Union locations in Michigan.  They have a number of branches and all will be collecting toys.  The toys will then be distributed through local groups in the state.


In the Grand Rapids area, LMCU will distribute toys to all the children this year at Stocking Elementary School, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Toys for Tots, and other groups will benefit as well.


The toy drive ends Monday, December 15.  The toys will then be distributed over the next week.

12.11.14:  Michigan expands mental health services efforts


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan is expanding efforts to offer more treatment options for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities who are at risk of being imprisoned.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced Wednesday the addition of six sites for pilot programs and plans to expand two existing efforts. Calley chairs the Mental Health Diversion Council, which is overseeing the programs with the state Department of Community Health and the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Community Health provided nearly $1.7 million for the effort and the Department of Corrections contributed nearly $1 million.

The Diversion Council in 2014 sponsored pilot programs in Marquette, St. Joseph and Kalamazoo as well as two serving the Detroit area. The Marquette and Kalamazoo programs are being expanded. Other pilot programs are planned next year in Barry County, Berry County, Detroit, the Monroe area, Kent County and Oakland County.

Calley says: “These pilot programs will help us learn which strategies are the most effective in reducing risk and providing care, serving as blueprints to be used across our state.”

The programs are intended to help people prior to them becoming involved with the court system. The Mental Health Court operates separately and works with people with mental illness and developmental disabilities once they have entered the judicial system.

Department of Community Health Director Nick Lyon says the pilot programs will help “evaluate and support new methods and systems that encourage diversion in Michigan.”