State Briefs

Associated Press • Sep 23, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Kent County warns about West Nile virus

LANSING (AP) — Health officials say four adults in Kent County have tested positive for the West Nile virus and another is suspected of having the mosquito-borne disease.

The county's Health Department says it's not know where they may have contracted the virus, but County Health Officer Adam London said "mosquitoes are still quite active" and people should take precautions against bites.

The virus was identified in three Michigan birds in May, the earliest such detection of the virus spreading through the state in a decade.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, confusion, muscles weakness and severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis.

Last year, the state reported there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan.

Leaders: $271B needed for creaky Great Lakes water systems

DULUTH (AP) — State leaders say the Great Lakes region needs to drastically improve public water systems.

The Great Lakes Commission this week called for upgrading wastewater treatment plants, storm water pipes and drinking water filtration systems. The commission, which represents the region's eight states, says a conservative cost estimate is $271 billion.

Chairman John Linc Stine said recent drinking water crises in Flint and Toledo illustrate the hazards of aging and underfunded water infrastructure.

Billions of gallons of sewage and untreated storm water are released into the Great Lakes each year because outdated systems can't handle it.

The commission endorsed a plan for tackling the problem during its annual meeting in Duluth, Minnesota.

It also recommended a closer look at emerging pollutants such as chemicals, drugs and tiny plastic particles.

Republicans gathering for biennial Mackinac conference

MACKINAC ISLAND (AP) — Michigan Republicans are gathering for a three-day summit ahead of 2018 elections in which they hope to keep control of the governor's office and unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference began Friday and runs until Sunday on Mackinac Island. The gathering held every two years is a chance for state candidates to mingle with nearly 2,000 registered party activists and donors. It's also an opportunity for Republicans to hear from leaders from outside Michigan.

Speakers this year include U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin also will speak, in addition to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who cannot run again under term limits.

State approves utility's plan to end power purchasing deal

COVERT TWP. (AP) — The state has approved Consumers Energy's plan to opt out of buying power from the Palisades nuclear plant in Covert Township.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said Friday that Jackson-based Consumers Energy can terminate its agreement with Entergy Corp. for just over $142 million. Both need to decide whether to accept the commission's conditions.

The plant, southwest of Grand Rapids, was built by Consumers Energy which sold it to Entergy in 2007. Consumers Energy agreed to buy power from Palisades until 2022.

Both companies have said the deal's remaining cost is higher than the projected cost of buying energy on the market.

The commission said the utility can recover the $142 million through surcharges to electric customers.

Entergy has said it intends to shutter Palisades next year.

Fire damages Scorpions Motorcycle Club barn in Lyon Township

LYON TWP. (AP) — A fire has damaged a barn belonging to the Scorpions Motorcycle Club northwest of Detroit in Oakland County's Lyon Township.

It's the second Detroit-area motorcycle club damaged this week. The Street Royalty Motorcycle Club building on Detroit's west side was destroyed Wednesday by an explosion and fire.

The Lyon Township fire forced a road closure Friday morning as firefighters put out the blaze. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

No injuries were reported at the Street Royalty Motorcycle Club. The cause of that explosion also was under investigation.

5 years in prison for priest who stole thousands in Owosso

OWOSSO (AP) — A retired priest has been sentenced to at least five years in prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a Michigan church.

The Rev. David Fisher was pastor for 23 years at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Owosso, 90 miles northwest of Detroit. He was sentenced Friday and ordered to repay $127,000.

Fisher retired in 2015 and moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota. He'll be eligible for parole after five years in prison. His maximum sentence is 15 years in prison.

Other Michigan priests have been under scrutiny. The Rev. Richard Fritz was accused of stealing more than $100,000, but charges were dropped in St. Joseph County in July.

In the Lansing-area, the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle is charged with embezzling $100,000 or more from an Okemos church.

Deep diver discovers historic sunken ship in Lake Huron

CANTON (AP) — A whaleback ship believed to have sunk in Lake Huron nearly a century ago has been discovered.

Deep diver David Trotter found the S.S. Clifton in September 2016 after beginning his search three decades ago, WZZM-TV reported.

"The S.S. Clifton has been on many wreck-hunter's bucket lists ever since she vanished in 1924," he said. "Of the remaining shipwrecks left to find in the Great Lakes, the Clifton would easily be number one."

Trotter said the ship was located about 100 miles south of where several shipwreck hunters believed the Clifton sunk.

"Last sightings are not necessarily confirmation of where an event happened, and that couldn't be more true than in this particular case," he said.

Trotter said he didn't immediately announce the discovery because he wanted his dive team to further investigate and document the ship this summer.

"We made nine separate expeditions out to the Clifton wreck site, during July and August," he said. "The visibility is much better at that depth during the summer months, so we could capture far better footage, in addition to really exploring the vessel, both inside and out."

He said he wants to understand what caused the ship to sink. Divers haven't been able to find a reason for the sinking from a mechanical standpoint.

Trotter plans to continue venturing out to the site for more documentation.

"The only whaleback steamer that was lost in Lake Huron was the Clifton, and her disappearance has been one of the Great Lakes' greatest mysteries," he said. "Historical records will validate much of the information we have pulled up from the wreck, and will provide historians new primary source information about this shipwreck."

Private schools can't intervene in lawsuit over public aid

DETROIT (AP) — Private schools, lawmakers and parents can't intervene in a lawsuit that challenges the use of public money in private schools.

The Michigan appeals court affirmed a decision by a judge who said they had no standing in the Court of Claims to oppose a lawsuit by public school associations.

Those groups so far have won decisions that have stopped the state from giving $2.5 million to private schools for complying with state requirements, such as fire drills and inspections. Critics say public money for private schools violates the Michigan Constitution.

The 3-0 appeals court opinion was released Friday.

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