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June 15, 2003

Week in Review

      Second Chance gets funds for expansion
      CENTRAL LAKE - Second Chance Body Armor Inc. of Central Lake will get $676,350 over five years from a federal grant program to help pay for an expansion that is expected to add 33 jobs locally.
      The company is the world's largest manufacturer of soft, concealable and wearable body armor. The company employs 400 worldwide, about half of them at two plants in Central Lake and a warehouse in Bellaire.
      Company spokesman Gregg Smith said the Community Development Block Grant money will be used to help fund the consolidation of warehousing and construction of a state-of-the-art ballistics testing lab. The company anticipates investing $1.4 million in consolidation and expansion.
      The grant is actually awarded to Central Lake Township, which applied for it in association with Second Chance. Such grants can be used to help pay costs related to getting a company to locate or expand in an area. The federal grant money comes through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which will administer it and monitor spending and jobs creation.
      Elmira man sentenced on firearm charge
      BELLAIRE - An Elmira man was sentenced to prison Monday on felony firearm charges, following a January armed standoff with sheriff's deputies.
      Rick Hunter Schippell, 34, was sentenced to 18 months to 10 years in prison by Antrim Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers Jr. Schippell earlier had been found guilty by a jury of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a five-year felony.
      Schippell was sentenced as a habitual offender - third offense, which increased his maximum penalty.
      The charge stemmed from a Jan. 4 incident on Alba Highway in Warner Township. Deputies responding to a domestic dispute spotted Schippell inside a home with a gun.
      Former commissioner sentenced to prison
      BELLAIRE - A former Antrim County commissioner was sentenced Monday to 40 months to 10 years in prison on a host of charges related to fraudulent business dealings.
      Steven Gayle Roote, 34, formerly of Bellaire, also was ordered to pay restitution of more than $242,000.
      Roote earlier had pleaded guilty to tax evasion, embezzlement between $1,000 and $20,000, false pretenses, and receiving and concealing stolen property between $1,000 and $20,000.
      In exchange, numerous other charges - including racketeering - were dropped by Antrim Prosecutor Charles Koop.
      Roote's business, Bear Necessities, sold art, furniture and other products made from deer antlers, game hides and the like.
      Roote served on the Antrim County board in the late 1990s, leaving it in 2000.
      County OKs surcharge for 911 improvements
      CHARLEVOIX - A 4-percent surcharge approved for all Charlevoix County phone lines will provide needed improvements to the 911 emergency telephone system, officials said.
      Charlevoix commissioners voted 3-1 Wednesday to impose the surcharge, which can be implemented without a public vote.
      The county operates its 911 system with Cheboygan and Emmet counties. Cheboygan commissioners approved the charge Tuesday. Emmet commissioners will consider it Thursday.
      The surcharge will add about 58 cents per month per phone line to telephone bills.
      Judge rules against animal grazing in basin
      CHEBOYGAN - Miniature horses, llamas and goats no longer can graze in a flood basin that has controlled excessive storm water in Cheboygan since the 1950s.
      Cheboygan Circuit Court Judge Scott Pavlich granted an injunction Tuesday, blocking Christine Boman and Brandon Boris, who own Mackinaw Pony Co., from grazing their animals on or near the basin.
      The city obtained an easement in 1961 on the 11 acres for the basin, which is in Beaugrand Township.
      Boman and Boris had purchased 20 acres last July. It includes the city's easement.
      City manager Scott McNeil said grazing was causing soil erosion in the flood-control basin and could damage it.
      Jeff Lyon, Boman's and Boris' attorney said the flooding easement only allows the city to flood the 11 acres and should not dictate the use of the land or the property surrounding the basin. He plans to appeal Pavlich's ruling.
      City agrees to replace playground equipment
      CHEBOYGAN - Playground equipment at the Galbraith School Park will be replaced this summer.
      The Cheboygan City Council agreed Tuesday to spend $10,000 for equipment, city manager Scott McNeil said.
      The city received the money for the park equipment and to buy land to expand the park from Cheboygan Area Schools. School officials had sold land near the park about two years ago to clear up a property snafu because both entities claimed ownership.
      VA panel approves hiring new director
      CHEBOYGAN - Cheboygan County could have a new Veterans Affairs director by this week.
      The Veterans Committee has recommended that the county board hire Russel Alan Barrette. Barrette will assume the position pending final approval by Cheboygan County officials, said Nancy Stempky, county administrator.
      Barrette is a veteran from the Coast Guard who also worked in the real estate division for Consumer's Energy, said Bill Wodek, a member of the Veteran's Committee.
      Veterans Affairs Director Kim Shatney and her full-time assistant, Deanna Gilbert, quit May 31, citing job stress and a lack of office space to provide privacy.
      Former teacher gets jail for bomb threat
      GRAYLING - A former Grayling Middle School teacher was sentenced to four months in jail for calling in a bomb threat because she was under stress and wanted the day off.
      Chief 46th Trial Court Judge Alton Davis sentenced Kathryn Anne Olson, 45, to four months in the Crawford County Jail, followed by two months of house arrest when she will be on a tether.
      Olson called in the bomb threat to the home of Doniel Pummell, the middle school principal, on March 11, 2002. She pleaded guilty to making a false bomb threat in March.
      In a brief statement at her sentencing, Olson said she was sorry, took full responsibility for her actions and was under personal and job-related stress when she made the call.
      Officer breaks leg in chase of suspect
      PETOSKEY - An officer with the city's Department of Public Safety is expected to miss six months of work after breaking his leg while chasing a suspected burglar last Sunday.
      Officer Jim Kushner was released from Northern Michigan Hospital Tuesday, Lt. Anthony Rice said.
      Police were called to Fulton Street at about 5:15 a.m. Sunday by someone who said a man was attempting to break into a car.
      The suspect spotted Kushner approaching and took off running and Kushner gave chase.
      The man reached a chain-link fence and jumped over to the other side. As Kushner attempted to do the same, the fence collapsed, Kushner fell and broke a lower bone in his right leg, Rice said. The suspect fled.
      grand traverse
      Commons board cuts director's position
      TRAVERSE CITY - Faced with a dwindling amount of property to manage - and shrinking funds to do it - the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corp. is trimming its operation to the bone.
      The Commons board has informed executive director Rachel Brady that her position will be eliminated as of Aug. 2 in a cost-cutting move. That will leave the Commons without any paid staff, and it could signal that the end is drawing near for the 12-year-old volunteer group that's fostered the redevelopment of the former state hospital grounds.
      The property controlled by the board has shrunk as chunks of the Commons campus have been sold off over the past decade to Munson Medical Center, the Minervini Group, and other local businesses and municipalities. The Commons still owns the 27-acre parcel known as Subarea 3 west of Building 50, although the Minervini Group has an option on that land that Commons officials expect will be exercised by the end of the year.
      Three teens accused of stealing handguns
      TRAVERSE CITY - Three Traverse City teenagers were arrested June 7 in connection with the theft of seven handguns.
      The guns were stolen from a car parked on the east side of town at about 3:30 a.m. June 7, city police said. All of the guns, as well as ammunition, were recovered.
      Police say a 15-year-old, who had two of the guns, was arrested at a house on Walnut Street. A 14-year-old was arrested at a motel on Front Street. A 17-year-old was arrested at the Grand Traverse Mall after a short foot chase with police. He had the remaining five guns and ammunition.
      The juveniles were turned over to probate court. The 17-year-old was held last Sunday at the Grand Traverse County Jail. He was to be arraigned on charges of possession of stolen handguns and larceny from an automobile, as well as receiving and concealing stolen property.
      Headlee millage OK'd; Crampton, Casler win
      TRAVERSE CITY - On a day marked by low turnout, Traverse City Area Public Schools voters filled two open board seats and approved a Headlee restoration millage.
      Former board member and retired teacher Richard Crampton, 71, regained his seat on the board with 2,130 votes. Crampton had served two terms and was its president in 2002. He lost his re-election bid last year.
      Joel Casler, 46, the lone incumbent, was re-elected with 2,510 votes. The third candidate, W. Gregory Claxton, had 1,391 votes.
      Only 6.8 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
      Voters approved the Headlee restoration millage, which calls for 1 mill to be levied for a period of 13 years on non-homestead property, 2,645 to 1,022.
      GT Band executive announces resignation
      ACME - The top gaming and economic development executive for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians has resigned, effective July 15, less than three months after the band bought one of the largest resorts in the Midwest.
      Jeff Livingston, chief executive officer of the band's Economic Development Corp. and its Traverse Bay Entertainment casino business, said he is resigning for personal reasons.
      John Concannon, a tribal council member and chairman of the Economic Development Corp. board, said in a statement that Livingston will continue to work with the band as a consultant. A search for his successor has begun.
      Livingston, 43, was a key player in the band's long pursuit and March 31 purchase of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
      Livingston reorganized the band's $100-million-a-year gaming and entertainment operations, renaming the two-casino venture as Traverse Bay Entertainment.
      Bingham woman dies in three-vehicle crash
      BINGHAM - A 46-year old Bingham woman was killed Thursday morning in a three-car accident at Lake View Hills Road and South Center Highway.
      The Leelanau County Sheriff's Department identified the victim as Bingham Township resident Cindy Nielsen, who lived on Whispering Hills Road.
      The accident occurred about 7:30 a.m. at the intersection when Walter Hartman, 78, westbound on Lake View Hills Road, failed to yield to a third vehicle driven by Heather Nash, 25, of Traverse City.
      The impact of the collision forced Nash's vehicle into the path of the van driven by Nielsen, who was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
      Nash and Hartman were treated at the scene and released.
      Voters fill out board, approve two millages
      ONEKAMA - Voters in the Onekama Consolidated School District on Monday elected three new board members and passed two millage proposals.
      Elected to four-year terms are Milton Whitmore and Mary Fisher, with 321 and 306 votes respectively. They defeated Blake Fitch (128 votes), Jeff Sternberger (133), Jeff Wisniski (256) and Dennis Zupin (276). Mindy Sedelmaier (382) defeated Lizabeth Lott (279) for a one-year term.
      A Headlee restoration proposal for an increase of 5 mills for four years that is expected to raise about $523,200 in its first year passed by a vote of 463-326.
      A sinking fund millage proposal of 1 mill for five years that is expected to raise about $160,900 in its first year passed by a 460-325 vote.
      Buckley sister gets jail sentence in theft case
      MANISTEE - One of two sisters who garnered national headlines two years ago after forcing an airplane headed for China to land in Alaska is going to jail again.
      Crystal Mikula, 24, of Buckley, was sentenced Monday to six months in jail and 30 months of probation for the Oct. 4 break-in of her former boyfriend's Cleo Township home.
      A Manistee County Prosecutor charged Mikula with entering the house through an unlocked door and removing a television and stereo equipment.
      She also will wear a tether during the first 15 months of probation, serve 40 hours of community service, attend counseling and pay fines and costs of more than $1,000.
      Mikula still faces charges in Grand Traverse County of third-degree retail fraud after she allegedly stole a pack of cigarettes and $100 in lottery tickets while a friend diverted a gas station attendant's attention April 6.
      Murderer's appeal rejected by court
      GAYLORD - A Gaylord man serving 35 to 52 years in prison for the murder of Traverse City teen Kathy Horn has been denied an appeal.
      The Court of Appeals ruled that David Paul Czinki received a fair trial in November 2001 and that the 46th Trial Court judge did not err for not calling a mistrial during jury selection.
      In his appeal, Czinki, 39 argued that a potential juror who recalled a gun theft committed by Czinki and a robbery conviction was an improper admission of evidence in the trial.
      Appellate judges said the juror's revelation was raised during jury selection, not during the trial. The potential juror who brought the matter to the attorneys and Davis' attention was excused from the case.
      School board agrees to Montessori program
      GAYLORD - The Gaylord School Board has agreed to launch a Montessori program at the Elmira School.
      The school board approved a resolution of support Monday to establish the Montessori program as long as the program is financially self-sustaining.
      The Elmira School is slated to be closed after June 20 due to declining enrollment and $1.8 million in budget cuts the district is making.
      Jackie Burden, the district's director of curriculum and special programs, said the district would need $95,000 to run the Montessori program.
      Burden said 19 new students and students from outside the Gaylord district have committed to the program, which would generate $72,000 toward costs.
      Those would include the salary for a teacher, a teacher's aide and costs to maintain the building.
      Man gets prison term in rape of teenager
      GAYLORD - A 37-year-old Kalamazoo man will serve a minimum of 40 years in prison for raping a Gaylord teen in February.
      Richard Dale Runge was sentenced Tuesday in 46th Circuit Trial Court to 40 to 60 years in prison for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
      Runge will serve the sentence after he finishes serving time for car theft, larceny and jail escape convictions. He had been on parole when the rape occurred, said Kevin Hesselink, Otsego County's prosecutor.
      In May, Runge pleaded guilty to the charge. He took full responsibility for raping a 13-year-old Gaylord girl in Vanderbilt on Feb. 14 while he was temporarily staying in the area. Runge's 15-year-old son, an alleged accomplice in the incident, also faces a charge of first-degree criminal sexual assault in probate court. Runge said he did not want to contest the charges against him in hopes that prosecutors will be lenient with his son.
      School board names new superintendent
      CADILLAC - The school board here has named assistant superintendent of curriculum Paul Liabenow to become superintendent on April 1, 2004, when Fred Carroll retires after more than two decades in that post.
      The board voted unanimously Monday to hire the 46-year-old Liabenow. He was the only person who applied for the job when the district asked for applicants from current employees.
      Liabenow has accepted the position, though salary and other terms have not been finalized.
      Liabenow joined the district as a teacher in 1983. He taught various grades at Kenwood, Franklin and Forest View elementary schools before becoming the principal at Forest View in 1993.
      In 2001, he was promoted to his current position.
      50 school employees take early retirement
      CADILLAC - Twice as many Cadillac school employees as expected have taken early retirement, saving the district at least $2 million over the next two years.
      The retirements of 50 employees took effect Wednesday, the day after the end of school here, said Pat Briggs, assistant superintendent for operations. The workers, several with up to 30 years in Cadillac Area Public Schools, signed up for the incentives between March and May.
      The district needed to save cash because of a declining enrollment.
      The early retirements allowed the district to avoid layoffs, which many other districts are facing, school board president Craig Weidner said.
      Two men killed in head-on crash of vans
      MESICK - Two men died Tuesday night when two vans crashed head-on M-115 east of Mesick.
      Police identified the accident victims as Scott Hamilton, 37, of Cadillac and John Ondrus, 69, of LeRoy. The collision occurred about 9:15 just east of M-37 in Antioch Township.
      Both men's wives were injured in the accident. Martha Ondrus, 63, was listed in serious condition and Emily Hamilton, 38, was in fair condition Wednesday at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.
      Witnesses told police that Ondrus' van was heading northwest and crossed into the opposing lane, where it collided with Hamilton's van.

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