9.23.15:  Michigan prison warden suspended pending investigation



LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A longtime warden of two Muskegon-area prisons has been suspended pending the outcome of an unspecified internal investigation.

Mary Berghuis is prohibited from entering the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility and West Shoreline Correctional Facility. Both prisons are in Muskegon Heights.

Department spokeswoman Holly Kramer says Berghuis was placed on “stop order” Tuesday. She declines to say why, citing an ongoing investigation. Kramer says the administrative step is taken so an employee cannot interfere with an investigation.

Berghuis has been warden since 2000. She’s worked for the agency since 1966.

She won’t be paid for a week but will resume being paid if the investigation lasts more than a week.

Shane Jackson, deputy warden of the Muskegon Correctional Facility, is acting warden of the Muskegon Heights prisons during the investigation.


9.4.15:  Amusement park’s sewage increase request gets pushback



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A request by amusement park Michigan’s Adventure to increase how much sewage it treats and releases into groundwater is getting pushback from neighbors and local government officials.


The park is seeking to change its permit with the state to allow it to discharge an amount of sewage that’s 10 times the existing limit. Opponents of the plan want the park to hook up to Muskegon County sewer lines extended there in 2007.


Park officials say it “safely stores and disposes” waste through its on-site treatment system. Park owner Cedar Fair successfully fought a $600,000 special assessment from Dalton Township for the sewer line, winning in court in 2010.


Rick Rusz with the Department of Environmental Quality says officials will decide soon whether to set up a public hearing, which opponents have requested.


8.28.15:  Man surrenders to police in crash that killed bicyclist



MONTAGUE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A 26-year-old western Michigan man faces charges in a hit-and-run crash that killed a 50-year-old Detroit-area bicyclist.

Ronnie Jo Claflin of Muskegon Township surrendered Thursday to police. He had been sought for failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing death.


Susan Cummings, a nurse from Lake Orion, was part of a group of people bicycling across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to raise money for the Hope Water Project. She was struck August 8th by a truck while riding from Montague Township to Bay City.


Prosecutors have said the truck driver failed to stop although he “knew or had reason to know he’d been at fault in that accident.”



8.26.15:  Crewman jumped into lake after alcohol confrontation



LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) — An investigation shows that a 41-year-old crewman jumped from a freighter into Lake Michigan north of Ludington following a confrontation with superiors over his alcohol use.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole says the freighter company apparently “has a zero tolerance policy” and the man was told to remain in his quarters until the ship reached its next port.

The Cleveland resident later leaped from the Stewart J. Cort’s rail about 1:15 a.m. Sunday into the lake about 4 miles northwest of Big Sable Point in Mason County. Some crew members saw him jump.

He has not been found. A U.S. Coast Guard search was cut short due to bad weather and suspended indefinitely.



8.10.15:  Muskegon college unveils redesign of newspaper building


MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Muskegon Community College has unveiled preliminary designs for its new Downtown Center that includes the former building of the Muskegon Chronicle.

The Chronicle reports the downtown campus will encompass the newspaper’s former building as well as the neighboring former Masonic Temple building. College officials say the designs will be finalized in a few months.

The modern redesign would keep intact certain features of the buildings, including mahogany paneling and large windows in the former lobby of the newspaper building. Muskegon Community College is using $7.2 million in bond revenues on the Downtown Center.

The campus will house college programs such as machining, robotics and renewable energy, and will also have a performance space for the theater department. Eventually, about 1,000 students are expected to attend classes in the Downtown Center.



7.30.15:  Manager at credit union admits embezzling $1.9M from vault



NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — Court documents say a manager at a Muskegon County credit union has admitted to embezzling $1.9 million from its cash vault between 2001 and this year.

Kathryn Sue Simmerman has agreed to plead guilty to embezzlement. She was charged Wednesday in federal court in Grand Rapids.

Simmerman’s attorney, Gary Springstead, says she is expected to plead guilty next month. A plea agreement says Simmerman took cash from the vault at Shoreline Federal Credit Union in Norton Shores and hid it in her purse.

Court documents say Simmerman was fired from her job in February.

In a statement, Springstead said Simmerman has cooperated fully with authorities in their investigation.



7.23.15:   3 die when SUV fails to yield, hit by pickup truck


EGLESTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Police in western Michigan say three elderly people were killed when their SUV failed to yield at an intersection and was hit by a pickup truck in Muskegon County.

The Muskegon Chronicle happened about 10 a.m. Wednesday in Egleston Township, east of Muskegon. It says the crash killed 82-year-old driver Allen Ames of Casnovia, his 84-year-old wife Jolene Ames and 85-year-old Beatrice Amen of Ravenna.

Police say the driver and a passenger in the pickup truck were injured. There’s no immediate word on their conditions.

State police Sergeant Doug Roesler says the SUV was on a road with a stop sign, but there’s no stop sign on the road the pickup was on.

Area resident Janet Rogers says it’s a problem intersection that needs a flashing light.



7.6.15:  Grant to help jumpstart Muskegon middle-income housing plan



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A $250,000 state grant to fight blight in Muskegon will help jumpstart a $1 million plan to build new middle-income homes.

The grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will help pay for the demolition of homes that have been abandoned or were forfeited due to unpaid taxes.

City Manager Frank Peterson says officials hope to work with a developer to build new homes on some of the lots that will attract middle-income families. Plans call for demolishing 33 blighted homes in the Nelson, Jackson Hill and Nims neighborhoods.

Muskegon was one of 19 communities to get $3.8 million from the state in competitive blight elimination program grants.



7.1.15:  Boy, 13, charged with murder in death to get evaluation



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A 13-year-old who authorities say fatally beat his 16-month-old cousin after the girl’s mother left them home alone is expected to get a competency examination.

The boy is charged with an open count of murder in the Feb. 28 death of A’Laina Brown at the girl’s home in Muskegon Township. Authorities say the Muskegon Heights teen told police he shoved A’Laina.


The Muskegon Chronicle reports public defender David Kortering requested the review of mental competency and sanity.

Mental competency involves whether a defendant is capable of understanding court proceedings and assisting in a defense. Legal sanity, also called criminal responsibility, is whether the boy was responsible for his own actions at the time.


6.23.15:  Condemned animal rescue operation won’t be allowed to reopen



FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A condemned animal rescue operation in western Michigan that was overrun with rats won’t be allowed to reopen at the same location.

The Fruitport Township Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday found Christine Lea Bishop violated terms of a special zoning variance that had been granted to her in 2013 for the Critter Cafe Rescue.

The board says she had more animals than she could control at the rented home. Hundreds of rats have been removed since last month.

Bishop ran the rescue and has said the rat population started with a cage of pet rats left outside the building in winter. Rabbits, ducks and cats also were cared for at the animal rescue.

The property’s owner worked with officials to deal with the rats.