1.29.16:  Activist starts ’40 Days of Peace’ for parents with felonies



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — An international peace activist has launched his ’40 Days of Peace’ program in Muskegon County to parents with felonies.

The Muskegon Chronicle reports that author and activist Kit Cummings created the Power of Peace five years ago as a way of bringing people together. He asks for 40 days to change prisons, schools, nonprofit groups and churches.

He started his program with 12 convicts at a prison in Georgia. He brought it last week to Muskegon County’s initiative known as EXIT. EXIT is a program for non-violent offenders. They receive life- and job-skills training with the promise of temporary employment. It exclusively enrolls felons with children in an effort to strengthen families.

The overall goal of the Power of Peace Project is to reduce youth crime.



1.5.16:  Woman sent to prison for stealing $1.9M from credit union



NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — A woman who stole nearly $2 million while advancing from teller to chief executive at a western Michigan credit union was sentenced Monday to 6 ½ years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell noted that Kathryn Sue Simmerman’s embezzlement over more than a decade wasn’t related to a family crisis or a sick child.

“I don’t get anything like that here,” Bell said. “I get cruises, I get pickup trucks, I get boats.”

Simmerman, 55, worked at Shoreline Federal Credit Union in Norton Shores, near Muskegon. Her thefts included $319,000 in 2014. Investigators said she deposited cash into accounts held by family members and cooked the books to fool auditors.

“I stole a lot of money, and I knew it was very wrong, and I was not raised that way,” Simmerman told the judge.


1.4.16:  Credit union manager to get sentence for stealing $1.9M



NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — A manager who turned a western Michigan credit union into a personal piggy bank is returning to court for her sentence.

Over more than a decade, Kathryn Sue Simmerman stole nearly $2 million from Shoreline Federal Credit Union in Norton Shores, near Muskegon. She was fired about a year ago.

Prosecutors are recommending more than seven years in prison. Simmerman will appear on Monday in federal court in Grand Rapids.

The government says “misplaced trust” by others at the credit union contributed to Simmerman’s ability to steal so much money without getting caught earlier. She embezzled $319,000 in 2014.

Simmerman’s lawyers say she regrets her crimes and “feels shame.” Insurance covered 70 percent of the credit union’s loss.


12.11.15:  State park seeks to stop vandalism at rebuilt structure



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Officials at Muskegon State Park in western Michigan are searching for ways stop a longtime problem with vandalism at one of its buildings.

The park’s blockhouse, which sits high atop a dune overlooking Lake Michigan, is a recreation of the original structure, which was burned to the ground by a group of young people in 1962. The original building was built in 1934.

The interior and exterior of the current structure have been defaced with racial slurs, inappropriate language and imagery and attempts of arson.

Vandals continue to strike amid repeated attempts to clean up the building.

The blockhouse is now boarded up for the season, but if the vandalism doesn’t stop it’s likely to remain closed during other parts of the year.




12.10.15:  Muskegon-area man sentenced for Social Security fraud



GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The former owner of a popular Mexican restaurant in the Muskegon area will spend more than a year in prison for Social Security fraud.


Pablo Razo Fierro was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. He was ordered to pay more than $232,000 in restitution and $100 in court fees.


Fierro illegally collected nearly $250,000 in Social Security disability benefits between 1999 and 2011 for a work-related back injury he suffered in 1992 at Eagle Ottawa Leather Co.


Court records show Fierro was working in the post-1999 period before opening his own restaurant, Pablo’s Tacos, in Roosevelt Park.


Fierro, a naturalized U.S. citizen, fled to Mexico in 2011 amid a federal investigation. He returned in 2014 and was arrested in June.


12.9.15:  Crews tear down former farmers market amid housing plans



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — Crews are tearing down Muskegon’s former farmers market, which is on a site that could be used for future housing development.

The old market on Yuba Street most recently was used as a flea market. Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson says the flea market will relocate next year to the new downtown farmers market.

Peterson says the old site could be used for a city-built housing development similar to one Muskegon recently broke ground on in the Nelson Neighborhood.

The Yuba Street market opened in 1964 and was used until the new market opened in 2014. City crews began dismantling stalls at the old market last week.

Peterson says: “We just wanted to make it not look like an abandoned farmers market for now.”



11.30.15:  Muskegon County board pledges to stop using bottle water



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners has decided to replace bottles of water offered at meetings with reusable tumblers.

Commissioners voted unanimously last Tuesday to stop buying bottled water after hearing a presentation by the county’s sustainability coordinator, Sara Dumm, on how employees are being encouraged to use washable tumblers. Dumm is giving away 200 gift packages of reusable bags, cups and travel coffee mugs to county employees who pledge to not use disposable products.

Dumm says she would like to see departments compete to see which can have the most employees to take the pledge.

Three water-bottle filling stations recently were installed in the county’s offices.


11.9.15:  Final coal delivery for power plant in western Michigan



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A power plant in western Michigan is getting its last load of coal after nearly 70 years.

As hundreds of people watched, the James R. Barker freighter arrived Sunday with 58,000 tons of coal for a Consumers Energy power plant on the shore of Muskegon Lake, near Lake Michigan.

The utility is pulling the plug at the B.C. Cobb plant next spring. It began producing electricity in 1948 and is named for a former Consumers president.

The plant burns mostly western coal from Wyoming and Montana, which has lower sulfur content than eastern coal.

Consumers vice president Timothy Sparks calls it a “bittersweet” day. He says the Muskegon port has a “promising future.”

On Saturday, more than 200 miles away, DTE Energy imploded an old coal-burning power plant in Marysville.


11.3.15:  Man sentenced in slaying of high school basketball player



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — A man who pleaded no contest in the fatal drive-by shooting of a 17-year-old high school basketball player from western Michigan has been sentenced to prison.

22-year-old Shundarius Lawson of Muskegon was sentenced Monday to 21 to 46 years in prison. He made the plea last month to second-degree murder in the April 2014 death of Marquis Gresham.

Gresham, a junior at Muskegon Heights High School, was walking to a sports banquet when he was shot. Prosecutors called him an innocent bystander.

Gresham family friend Perry Bennor said relatives wanted “the highest possible punishment.” Prosecuting attorney Matt Roberts says he explained to the family the plea deal and judge’s 21-year minimum sentence cap.


11.2.15:   Final coal shipment expected at Muskegon energy plant



MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — The final coal shipment has been scheduled for the Consumers Energy B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon.

The Muskegon Chronicle reported Sunday that the James R. Barker could arrive November 8th at the Port of Muskegon in western Michigan.

Utility spokesman Roger Morgenstern says in an email to the newspaper that the ship is to be loaded with 58,000 tons of coal Thursday in Superior, Wisconsin.

The energy plant is scheduled to end operations in April. Demolition for much of the facility could take place by the end of 2018. An electrical switch station would remain on site.

At least nine coal plants in the state are slated to shut down in the next 10 years due to emission restrictions.