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State Briefs

By the Associated Press • Oct 5, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Frederik Meijer Gardens breaks ground on $115M expansion

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A gardens and sculpture park in West Michigan has announced the groundbreaking of a $115 million expansion project.

A statement from Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park said the first phase of the expansion began in September.

The Grand Rapids attraction has hired New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for the project. The firm also is designing the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

The project includes a new welcome center, rooftop sculpture garden and picnic pavilion. Officials said the new areas will allow the attraction to increase educational offerings, expand annual horticulture exhibitions, host more events and create additional space.

Funding for the project came from gifts and pledges through the attraction's capital campaign, "Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love," said CEO David Hooker.

More than 750,000 people visit Meijer Gardens each year.

Driver faces charges after elderly couple hit walking dogs

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — A driver who authorities said hit an elderly couple walking their dogs in August in West Michigan, killing one of them and one of their dogs, is facing charges.

Grand Rapids police said 75-year-old Joy Gillette was walking with her 77-year-old husband when the driver failed to negotiate a turn and went off the road. Police said Gillette was pronounced dead at a hospital and her husband had serious injuries.

One dog died of crash injuries at the scene and another returned to the couple's Grand Rapids home.

Police announced Wednesday that Kristina Joyce Ryl, 34, is awaiting an Oct. 17 hearing on whether the case goes to trial after being recently arraigned. Charges include operating while intoxicated causing death.

Elevated levels of industrial chemicals found in Flint River

LAPEER (AP) — State regulators say they've detected elevated levels of a group of toxic chemicals in the Flint River and its tributaries that apparently came from an industrial facility in the city of Lapeer.

The Department of Environmental Quality said Monday it discovered the chemicals in samples taken from Lapeer's sewage collection system.

The chemicals are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They're used in many industrial applications and products including firefighting foams and non-stick cookware.

Because they don't degrade in the environment, they can accumulate in fish and wildlife.

The DEQ said an electroplating facility is a "significant source" of the chemicals. They are jointly working to stop the discharge.

Officials said the issue isn't related to the lead contamination and other issues with Flint's drinking water.

Child dies, mother hurt in central Michigan crash

DEERFIELD TWP. (AP) — Authorities said a 4-year-old girl has died in a vehicle crash in central Michigan that also has left her mother seriously hurt.

The Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant reported the girl was thrown from the van and her mother was trapped inside the vehicle Wednesday afternoon in Isabella County's Deerfield Township, west of Mount Pleasant. The girl died at the scene. The mother is in critical condition at a hospital.

Investigators said a woman driving a Jeep ran a red light and hit the van in which the woman and child were riding.

The woman in the Jeep was also taken to a medical center for treatment.

Western Michigan suspends early plans to replace dormitories

KALAMAZOO (AP) — Initial planning to replace a dozen residence halls over a decade at Western Michigan University has been suspended.

Spokeswoman Cheryl Roland said Wednesday that officials at the Kalamazoo school have decided to focus on other development priorities. She said the efforts, which had been exploratory and never firm, would have started with demolition and construction of four dorms as early as next year.

The university sought input last month from students and faculty last month on what to include, and architects were consulted.

Overall costs had not been determined.

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