State Briefs

Associated Press • Jun 22, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Muskegon disc golf course stays closed amid tree threat

MUSKEGON (AP) — A popular disc golf course in Muskegon will remain closed indefinitely until city officials can devise a plan to prevent the possible spread of a disease that kills oak trees.

Muskegon Public Works officials recently decided not to reopen the McGraft Park course, which closed last month over concern that discs hitting trees could expose the park to oak wilt. Oak wilt is a pervasive tree disease caused by fungus spreading through tree roots or by beetles.

Many disc golf fans were hopeful that the course would open again after a report from a local expert determined earlier this month that the sport shouldn't be a detriment to the park's mature oak trees. But the oak wilt problem could include some trees that weren't examined by Michigan State University professor Dave Roberts in his report, said city Public Works Director LeighAnn Mikesell.

"We're not in a good spot, and I was pushing staff to try and get at least part of it open," Mikesell told city commissioners last week. "So our recommendation is to leave it closed and prune when it makes more sense, take our time and do what needs to be done with those trees."

Mikesell said the city will look into fairway modifications. The department hopes to reopen the course next spring.

Don Jensen, owner and operator of Sweet Spot Disc Golf in Muskegon Heights, said the sport's community has been disappointed in how the city has handled the closure. He said the oak wilt threat could've been prevented early on with regular pruning and upkeep.

"It's ironic it's the city's neglect, lack of irrigation, lack of pruning and lack of funds that have led to most of the damage at the park," Jensen said.

AAA: Nearly 1.6M from Michigan to travel for 4th of July

DEARBORN (AP) — AAA says it expects nearly 1.6 million people from Michigan to travel at least 50 miles from home for the July 4th weekend.

The auto club said Thursday it's a 5.5 percent increase from the number of people from the state who traveled during last year's holiday travel period. AAA notes it's the highest Michigan travel volume around Independence Day since it began tracking it 18 years ago.

The vast majority — nearly 1.4 million — will go by personal vehicle. More than 71,000 will travel by air. Others will go by train, bus or boat.

The Independence Day holiday travel period this year is defined as July 3 to July 8. With July 4 falling on a Wednesday, some may travel the weekend before the holiday.

Chronic wasting disease suspected in Jackson County doe

SPRING ARBOR TWP. (AP) — A 3-year-old doe in Jackson County's Spring Arbor Township is believed to have had chronic wasting disease.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that landowners found the ill-looking deer's carcass on their property.

The disease affects the central nervous systems of deer, elk and moose, attacking the brains of infected animals and producing small lesions that result in death.

Initial testing of tissue samples came back positive. The state is awaiting further test results.

The state says nearly 60 deer in Michigan have tested positive for the disease since May 2015. It already has been confirmed in Clinton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent and Montcalm counties.

The DNR asks hunters and others to report deer that are unusually thin, lethargic, have drooping heads and ears, and exhibit unusual behavior.

Governor adds third Michigan county to disaster declaration

LANSING (AP) — A third county in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has been added to the state's disaster declaration following severe flooding.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday included Gogebic County in the declaration. Houghton and Menominee counties initially were named in the declaration that makes available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts.

Houghton and Menominee declared local states of emergency on Sunday. Gogebic County made its local declaration Monday.

Heavy weekend rains swelled waterways that washed away large chunks of concrete and asphalt, littering roads with debris. Some residents used boats to get around.

Michigan's National Guard has deployed about 70 soldiers and heavy equipment, including trucks, bulldozers, front-end loaders and excavators to the areas affected by the flooding to help remove debris and repair roads.

U of Michigan to raise in-state tuition by 2.9 percent

ANN ARBOR (AP) — The University of Michigan Board of Regents has approved a 2.9 percent increase for in-state undergraduate tuition.

The increase, approved 7-1 Thursday, means those students will pay $436 extra per year. Freshman tuition and fees for Michigan residents next fall will be $15,262.

The regents also voted to raise tuition for nonresidents by 3.9 percent, or $1,874, to $49,326 per year.

The regents approved the tuition increases as part of a vote on the university's fiscal 2019 budgets for its Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses.

Andrea Fischer Newman was the lone regent voting against the increases. She expressed concerns about raising tuition, specifically for middle-class families.

The university's Go Blue Guarantee offers free tuition for four years for Michigan families earning less than $65,000 per year.

Man accused of stealing nearly 100 packages gets probation

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — A northern Michigan man accused of stealing nearly 100 packages over a two-year period has been sentenced to probation.

WPBN-TV reports 30-year-old William Matthew Hicks of Traverse City also was sentenced Wednesday to two days in jail with credit for two days already served. He earlier pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted larceny in a building after prosecutors say he cooperated with police and helped get packages properly delivered.

Authorities said an investigation found Hicks diverted packages to his home containing about $8,000 in merchandise, including speakers, headphones, computers and a drone.

Grand Traverse County prosecutors originally charged Hicks with larceny between $1,000 and $20,000, a felony that could have sent him to prison for up to seven years.

Supreme Court tie is victory for lawyer in will dispute

DETROIT (AP) — A lawyer who prepared a friend's will and stands to reap millions of dollars with his sons has survived an appeal by the man's family.

Bobby Mardigian's relatives didn't get anything from him and want the will to be set aside, claiming there was undue influence by attorney Mark Papazian. But the Michigan Supreme Court was deadlocked at 3-3 Thursday, which means an appeals court decision in favor of the lawyer will stand.

The case now will return to Charlevoix County court in northern Michigan where Papazian will get a chance to show there was nothing improper with how he and two sons inherited the bulk of his close friend's estate. At stake: $16 million.

Chief Justice Stephen Markman said the "guiding polar star" in Michigan probate law is that the wishes of the deceased should be honored. Allegations of misconduct by a lawyer might trigger an ethics investigation, he said, but still not spoil a will.

Justice Bridget McCormack, however, said Markman and justices Brian Zahra and Elizabeth Clement were applying an "outdated precedent" from a 1965 case that should be overturned.

"Those who draft wills should not benefit from them. We owe the public better. ... Yes, lawyers who violate their ethical duties to clients can be punished in the disciplinary process. But that only solves part of the problem," said McCormack, who was joined by justices Richard Bernstein and David Viviano.

A tie occurred because a seventh justice, Kurtis Wilder, didn't participate. He recused himself because he handled the case when he was a judge on the state appeals court.

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