State Briefs

Associated Press • Feb 3, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Michigan groundhog's prediction: 6 more weeks of winter

MARION TWP. (AP) — Handlers of Woody the Woodchuck, billed as Michigan's official groundhog, say she's predicting six more weeks of winter.

They say if she emerges from her house at the Howell Conference and Nature Center and stays out for 30 seconds or longer she's indicating an early spring; if she doesn't come out or runs back into her house before the 30 seconds are up, she is forecasting six more weeks of winter.

On Friday, which is Groundhog Day, she didn't come out of her house during an event at the nature center in Livingston County's Marion Township. Dozens of people turned out during chilly morning temperatures to watch the not-so-scientific forecast.

The prediction of six more weeks of winter matched that from handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

Michigan marina project near sand dunes gets key permit

SAUGATUCK TWP. (AP) — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has given a marina and home development project in the Lake Michigan sand dunes a key permit it needs to move forward.

The department approved a permit for the North Shores of Saugatuck project Friday. The project would build a 1,600-foot-long marina and nearly 40 home sites near the Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

The permit requires that the marina basin be lined with impermeable clay to isolate it from the groundwater system and that five groundwater monitoring wells be installed near the wetlands, said John Bayha, the environmental engineer overseeing the permit application.

Sand removed from the marina must be spread at a site that's not a wetland or critical dune area, Bayha said. Only native plants will be allowed to be put into the area, so developers won't be able to put in grassy lawns. Part of the property must also be set aside as a donation to the state park or a permanent conservation easement, he said.

The department also approved the construction of an access roadway around the marina.

The property spanning more than 300 acres once belonged to Oklahoma oil tycoon Aubrey McClendon, who proposed large-scale development that didn't materialize before his death in March 2016. The project is proposed by the land's new owner, Jeff Padnos, and development company Cottage Home.

The plans have drawn opposition from area residents and environmentalists. The development could hurt vital wetlands, disturb fish populations and historic resources, and have a negative economic impact, said David Swan, president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance.

Cottage Home President Brian Bosgraaf said the project is taking a "conservation-based development" approach.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must still award a permit before construction can begin.

Michigan State trustee charged with assaulting referee

LANSING (AP) — A Michigan State University trustee has been charged with assault following a dispute over a referee's calls during a girls' basketball tournament.

Mitch Lyons, 47, was coaching one of the teams when he allegedly pushed a referee after a December game at Grass Lake Middle School. Lyons faces a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Lyons denies the allegations, said Brian Lennon, his attorney. Lennon said he hopes the case will be dismissed.

"We have identified numerous witnesses who refute the alleged victim's account of the events," Lennon said.

The referee told police that he had to make a couple calls that caused one team to lose and then issued two technical fouls following a verbal dispute. The referee said that an unidentified coach confronted him after the game and twice pushed him in the chest with his hands.

Lyons either pushed the referee or was attempting to illustrate what one of his players was doing during the game, one witness told Michigan State Police. Another witness told police she was standing near the two men and didn't see Lyons push the referee.

A court hearing is set for Feb. 12 in Jackson County District Court.

Lyons played football from 1988 to 1992 at Michigan State. He spent seven years in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons. Lyons has been a university trustee since 2011 and said he doesn't plan to seek another term when his current term expires at the end of the year.

Lyons last month was the only member of the Michigan State trustees to publicly call for university President Lou Anna Simon to step down before she resigned over the handling of the sex assault scandal involving former university sports doctor Larry Nassar.

Michigan jail releases man in frigid weather with no shirt

LUDINGTON (AP) — A sheriff's office in West Michigan has changed part of its policy after an inmate was allowed to leave jail in below freezing temperatures without wearing a shirt or shoes.

The Ludington Daily News reports that Nick Wroble left Mason County's jail Tuesday bare-chested and in socks. Temperatures during the day ranged from 18 degrees to 24 degrees.

The old policy required jail clothing to remain inside the facility. Relatives also could not bring clothing before an inmate's release.

Sheriff Kim Cole said Wroble was given his shirt and other belongings and spent more than a minute playing outside with his dog before getting into a waiting car. Cole said Wroble didn't want dog hair on the shirt.

He added that Wroble, who was jailed for breaking and entering with intent, "did not have shoes and he should have had shoes."

Snyder appearing in Super Bowl ad as he serves final year

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is coming to broadcast screens on the day of the Super Bowl to promote what he terms the state's "comeback" as he serves his final year in office.

The Republican governor, featured in the introductory "One Tough Nerd" Super Bowl ad in 2010, uses the new 60-second spot airing in the state Sunday to publicize signs of economic improvement during his two terms, including rising business attraction, increasing hiring and a reviving Detroit.

The narrator also touts a state government that completes budgets early and pays down debt.

Snyder, whose ad is paid for by his nonprofit Making Government Accountable, cannot run again because of term limits.

Some Michigan candidates also plan ads for game day, including Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Shri Thanedar and Republican U.S. Senate challenger Sandy Pensler.

Police: Man with hammer interrupted 5 church services

PORT HURON (AP) — A Michigan man is facing charges after authorities say he interrupted five church services while carrying a hammer and told those gathered that they should repent.

Police say 27-year-old Ryan Michael Shands of Port Huron was charged Thursday with five misdemeanor counts of disturbing a religious service. He's jailed on $25,000 bond ahead of a Feb. 12 hearing. Court records didn't list a lawyer for him.

Police say Shands was arrested Monday, a day after he allegedly went into three churches in Port Huron and another in nearby Port Huron Township. Police say the week before he allegedly interrupted another service.

The Times Herald of Port Huron reports Shands completed mental health court probation in January after pleading guilty last year to attempted resisting a police officer and retail fraud.

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