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November 19, 2000

Week in Review

      Icy road conditions contribute to fatality
      THOMPSONVILLE- A 61-year-old Pennsylvania man died in a one-car accident Tuesday afternoon during the season's first snowfall.
      Joseph Grajcar was a passenger in a car driven by his brother, Michael Grajcar, 66, of Arcadia, according to the Benzie County Sheriff's Department.
      The Grajcars were traveling southwest on Karlin Road near Traverse Avenue around 4:15 Tuesday when Michael Grajcar lost control of the car on slushy roads. The car went off the road into a ditch, hit an embankment and rolled over twice, the sheriff's department said.
      Michael Grajcar received minor injuries and was treated at the scene.
      Area DJs join statewide talk radio network
      TRAVERSE CITY - Several well-known radio personalities, including Ron Jolly of WTCM-AM in Traverse City and Bill "The Captain" Vogel of WKHQ-FM in Petoskey, will join a new all-talk radio venture that will sell shows to Michigan stations.
      Called Michigan Talk Radio Network, the Charlevoix-based firm will offer a lineup of live shows from 5 a.m. to midnight. The service, distributed to stations via satellite, is set to go on the air at midnight on New Year's Day.
      Owners David and Charles "Chuck" Scott said they have "between five and 10" stations committed and hope in time to enlist 30 to 40. They declined to say which stations are signed up.
      The all-Michigan format, Scott said, allows stations to have more of a local flavor than they can get with syndicated shows produced in New York or on the West Coast.
      Police investigate fatal hunting accident
      CHARLEVOIX - Police continue to investigate a fatal hunting accident that took place Wednesday afternoon on Garden Island in Lake Michigan.
      Jerome Walter Beyer, 60, of Algonac, was pronounced dead at Charlevoix Area Hospital Wednesday, after being transported from the small islet north of Beaver Island to the hospital via a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter from the Traverse City air station.
      The Cheboygan-Charlevoix-Emmet 911 Central Dispatch center received a call from the island shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, reporting Beyer had been shot in the left leg. Charlevoix County Undersheriff Don Schneider said Thursday that the remote location of the island and resulting communication difficulties may have been factors in Beyer's ultimate death.
      Onaway man charged with assaulting officer
      CHEBOYGAN - A 62-year-old Onaway man was arraigned in Cheboygan County Friday on a charge of felonious assault on a police officer after he allegedly threatened a DNR officer Wednesday.
      According to the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department, the man was on a four-wheeler on state land in Forest Township Wednesday morning when a DNR officer approached him. They had an exchange, and the man pointed his rifle at the DNR officer, said Sgt. Micahel Newman of the Cheboygan County Sheriff's Department.
      The DNR officer left the scene. The man was identified in the following investigation, and police contacted his family. The man turned himself into the Cheboygan State Police Post Thursday, Newman said.
      Man charged with firing gun into neighbor's home
      CHEBOYGAN - A 36-year-old Wolverine man was charged Wednesday for firing a shotgun into the home of his neighbors.
      James William Bernitt faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the felony charge.
      Bernitt is accused for firing two rounds from a shotgun into a Nunda Township residence around 9:40 p.m. Tuesday. Three adults and a 5-month-old child were in the home, state police at the Cheboygan post said.
      No one in the home was injured. Police said Bernitt and the occupants of the home and been involved in an ongoing dispute.
      Bernitt was arrested about 11:30 p.m. after troopers gathered evidence at the scene. Wife accidentally shoots husband.
      Consultants outline plan for former factory
      PETOSKEY - Consultants outlined a plan Monday to the Emmet County board of commissioners that would redevelop a former factory into a housing and commercial venture that would pump more than $4 million into public coffers over 30 years.
      Representatives from the environmental and engineering company The Traverse Group Inc. presented the plan to the board Monday. It calls for the site of Petoskey Manufacturing to be turned into 75 percent residential use, between 8 and l2 units, and 25 percent commercial use. The planned 26,400-square-foot building would consist of 6,400 square feet of commercial space and about 20,00 square feet of residential space.
      The owner of Petoskey Manufacturing has filed for bankruptcy and the plant has ceased operation. The improved property's zoning will most likely change from industrial to mixed-use residential and commercial uses to conform to the City of Petoskey's Master Plan.
      The property is an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site. After demolition of the factory, efforts to clean up the site would begin.
      Former nurse charged with assaulting patients
      PETOSKEY - A former nurse at Lockwood MacDonald Hospital was charged Wednesday with eight criminal sexual conduct counts, claiming he sexually assaulted three different mental health patients at the hospital multiple times.
      Thomas Alan Schram, 46, of Charlevoix, faces up to life in prison on each of four first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges, which involve sexual penetration; and up to 15 years in prison for each of four second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.
      The incidents are alleged to have occurred between October 1998 and February 1999. Each charge authorized by Emmet County prosecutor Robert Engel notes that the alleged victims were physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.
      grand traverse
      County officials approve purchase of building
      TRAVERSE CITY - County commissioners Monday approved buying a vacant office building in Garfield Township to provide more space for cramped county offices.
      Grand Traverse County commissioners voted unanimously to pay $2,824,384 for a 17,000-square foot office owned by CMS Energy on the east side of LaFranier Road south of the city. They haven't made a final decision on what county offices will be moved to the five-year-old building, but are currently considering what officials call "non-core" county functions including the planning, finance, human resources and county board departments.
      Approximately 30 county workers downtown would be relocated under the current plans, officials said.
      Work release walkaway receives prison sentence
      TRAVERSE CITY - Two days before he was to be released from jail, Keith Allen Butler, upset that his release date had been set back one week, decided to get drunk instead of going to a work release assignment.
      When the 44-year-old Fife Lake man returned to jail last July and realized he could not fool a breath test, he ran for freedom. He spent 75 days drinking at a campground near his home until he was captured by police, according to court records.
      On Monday, Butler was sentenced to prison for three years and four months to five years.
      City commissioners elect Larry Hardy mayor
      TRAVERSE CITY - Commissioner Larry Hardy was named to the mayor's seat for a third time, while outgoing mayor Linda Smyka was elected as mayor pro tem in a city commission organizational meeting Monday night.
      The Hardy/Smyka slate was elected in a 4-3 vote. They were supported by themselves and commissioners Phill Orth and Tom Gilbert. The other nomination was for Commissioner Jim Tompkins, a three-time mayor of the city, who was supported by commissioners Ann Rogers and Margaret Dodd.
      Hardy joins Tompkins as the only city residents to serve as mayor three different times.
      Resort sells 350 acres to cherry-farming family
      ACME - The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa has sold 350 acres once designated for a gated community to the cherry-growing Veliquette family of Kewadin .
      The Veliquettes plan to keep using the land for cherry orchards, at least for the near future.
      The property is on the west side of U.S.-31 and north of Dock Road. At one time, it was to be developed by previous owners of the resort into the Country Club of Michigan, an exclusive, gated golf-and-condo community.
      The resort, now owned by KSL Recreation Corp., has decided to sell off unneeded real estate around the main property and focus on its core resort operation, according to a statement released Tuesday.
      In addition to the U.S.-31-Dock Road property, the resort also has put up for sale a 160-acre parcel on M-72 just east of the main property.
      Township officials unveil Acme Village project
      ACME - Acme Township officials are looking at a proposal that would allow development of an "Acme Town Center" - a "mixed-use, walkable community with a downtown" - on some 240 acres south of M-72 and west of Lautner Road. It was unveiled Wednesday at a special meeting of the township planning commission, complete with conceptual drawings, though officials emphasized that they don't intend to impose a specific plan on landowners or developers.
      The property in question is owned by David Rollert, a Traverse City attorney, and is wedged in between two other large parcels.
      For now, the township has slapped a moratorium on new development until it can resolve problems involving wastewater treatment.
      Zoning board approves Days Inn electronic sign
      TRAVERSE CITY - In a 5-4 vote that followed nearly three hours of discussion Tuesday night, the city's board of zoning appeals approved a variance to allow the electronic message-board sign at the Days Inn and Suites motel at 420 Munson Avenue.
      City zoning officials and motel owners had been at odds for months over the structure because the city's sign ordinance specifically bans signs with text messages that can be changed electronically. Time and temperature displays are allowed.
      The $35,000 sign went up more than two years ago, while the lodge was undergoing a major renovation. The business received a city permit under the city's previous sign ordinance, but didn't get the variance required for a light-emitting display (LED) sign.
      About that same time the city amended its sign ordinance and banned electronic LED signs because officials thought they distract passing motorists, creating safety problems.
      GT Academy developer faces $3 million lawsuit
      TRAVERSE CITY - The developer of a building leased to Grand Traverse Academy, a new charter school, is facing a lawsuit for more than $3 million in overdue payments.
      The implications of the suit for the academy were unclear Thursday. The charter school at Three Mile and Hammond serves 300 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
      Comstock Construction filed the suit for breach of contract against the developer, named in the suit as Second Grand Traverse School. It is a limited partnership registered in Delaware and located in Nashville, Tenn.
      According to the suit, Comstock stopped work on the project on Oct. 4 and is waiting for $3,139,914 owed by the developer. The suit asks that the property be put in receivership so that Comstock can collect rent on the building to go toward the amount due.
      House fire blamed on overheated chimney
      KALKASKA - A fire blamed on an overheated chimney destroyed a 100-year-old home in northern Kalkaska County Wednesday morning.
      The home on Westwood Road, east of U.S. 131, was declared a complete loss after volunteers from half a dozen area fire departments were unable to prevent the flames from spreading throughout the structure. Firefighters said the home had been extensively remodeled and burned rapidly once the fire broke out.
      The fire was reported about 8:30 a.m. Fire officials said the home was heated with a wood furnace. They suspect that a newly installed metal chimney pipe became overheated and set fire to a nearby wall.
      Airplane flips over during troubled take-off
      KALKASKA - A pilot walked away with only minor injuries after a single-engine airplane flipped onto its top during a troubled take-off Wednesday at Kalkaska Airport.
      The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. when the Cessna piloted by David Bury, 42, of Kalkaska, lost power.
      It lifted off the ground, touched back down and went off the east end of the runway before it hit a stump and flipped onto its top.
      Bury, who is part owner of the plane, was alone when the accident happened.
      His wife Patti said he received only a few stitches in his forehead, and was in good enough shape to be at deer camp Thursday night.
      Downstate man announces plan to buy Sugar Loaf
      CEDAR - A St. Clair County man associated with an Oak Brook, Ill., religious group called Institute in Basic Life Principles, has a tentative deal to buy the Sugar Loaf ski resort.
      He hopes to reopen it in time for the Christmas holiday season.
      Doug Nanney, who operates a sign-making business called Signs of Excellence in Capac, said Wednesday he and partners have agreed to buy the resort from Remo Polselli's Pacific XIX partnership. No closing date has been set. The price is "in the neighborhood" of Polselli's previous asking price of $8.5 million, Nanney said.
      If it does open, the operation will be family oriented, he said, with no smoking, drinking or loud rock music. It also will have a new name: Cedar Ridge Resort Inn and Conference Center.
      Although Nanney is associated with the Institute in Basic Life Principles, headed by Bill Gothard, the deal is personal and does not involve the institute, he said.
      Trail case reaches final round in Supreme Court
      TRAVERSE CITY - The final round of a long legal bout between Bingham Township and the Leelanau Trails Association played out in the state's highest court last week.
      Attorneys for both sides argued their positions for almost an hour Wednesday morning before the Michigan Supreme Court. The hearing was the final appeal of a 1996 local circuit court ruling, which said the township has no zoning control over the trail.
      A ruling is not expected for several weeks or even longer.
      The zoning case has pinballed its way through the state's legal system since it was first appealed by the township board some four-and-a-half years ago. The state Court of Appeals upheld Circuit Judge Philip E. Rodgers' ruling that the township had no zoning control over the former railroad corridor and trail because the trail association intends to eventually put the trail into public ownership.
      Township board OKs plan for mall development
      GAYLORD - The Bagley Township Board Monday approved plans for an 800,000-square-foot retail development that would be the biggest in Otsego County and one of the largest in northern Michigan.
      Plans by Festival Land Developers call for development of 800,000 square feet of retail space on 122 acres on the north side of Johnson Road near the Old 27/I-75 interchange south of Gaylord.
      The proposal moves to the Otsego County Planning Commission Monday.
      The project is planned for three phases: A 153,700-square-foot building; 190,000 square feet of additional space, a gas station and a convenience store; and an 400,000-square-foot strip development anchored by three stores.
      City council OKs purchase of land for Aspen Park
      GAYLORD - The city council has agreed to buy property to add to the city's Aspen Park.
      The Gaylord City Council on Monday approved the purchase of 2 acres near the entrance of the park, located on the east side of the city south of M-32.
      Acting mayor Gladys Solokis said city officials years ago attempted to develop a trail on the property before they learned the city didn't own some of the land. Dale Smith, a local real estate broker, had offered to sell the land to the city.
      Dave Duffield, the city treasurer, said the city will pay $26,000 for the property.
      The purchase will give city residents easier access to Scott's Pond, Solokis said. The property will be developed into a natural trail that will also be used for cross-country skiing.
      County commissioners consider Big Rock rubble
      GAYLORD - Otsego County Commissioners Tuesday questioned their qualifications to oversee the disposal of rubble from the Big Rock Point nuclear plant at the local landfill and the possibility that procedures may be sidestepped to save time and money.
      Officials of Consumers Energy, which owns Big Rock, presented its plan to dispose of 42,250 tons of waste into the Waters landfill to the county board Tuesday.
      The landfill is mostly in Crawford County but a small area is within Otsego County. Otsego sold its interest in the landfill, which it jointly owned with Crawford County, in 1991.
      Demolition of the nuclear plant just west of Charlevoix, which has been under way for three years, is expected to be completed by 2004.
      2001 budget allows for full-time prosecutor
      CADILLAC - Wexford County Prosecutor will become a full-time position next year now that county commissioners approved the 2001 budget as presented Wednesday night.
      The change will be primarily in name, as Prosecutor William Fagerman said he already works more than a 40-hour week on prosecutorial duties.
      But the change will likely include an increase of his current $67,550 annual salary to be determined in negotiations with County Administrator Tim Dolehanty between now and Jan. 1.
      The change also means the county will directly pay the salaries of Fagerman, his two assistant prosecutors and the four non-lawyers on his staff. Currently, the county pays Fagerman and he pays his own rent and his employees' wages.
      Police investigate theft at Cadillac High School
      CADILLAC - Police are investigating the theft of about $800 worth of tennis equipment from a storage shed at Cadillac High School.
      The theft occurred sometime within the last two weeks when someone broke a lock on a shed next to the school's tennis courts, according to the Cadillac Police Department.
      More than 20 junior tennis rackets of several makes and models and 200 tennis balls are missing.
      Mesick hunter accidentally shoots her husband
      MESICK - A hunter unloading her gun accidentally shot her husband Thursday in what the Wexford County Sheriff's Department called an accident.
      The victim, a 30-year-old Mesick man, was in serious condition at Munson Medical Center. The shooting happened about 11 a.m. while the couple was hunting off 5 Road near 16 Road, north of Mesick and the woman was unloading her deer rifle.
      Officials are not releasing the names as the investigation continues.