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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jul 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Grand Rapids, Kent County decide against merging 911 service

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — Grand Rapids and Kent County officials have decided against the idea of merging their 911 emergency dispatch centers.

Kent County Central Dispatch handles all calls for the county except those within Grand Rapids city limits.

The idea of combining services has been discussed in recent months, but WOOD-TV reported county and city leaders determined it wouldn't make financial sense. Grand Rapids Interim City Manager Eric DeLong said the cost of merging the centers would be around $3.6 million and save an estimated $400,000 a year.

The Grand Rapids Press reported vocal opposition to the merger came from members of the Grand Rapids Police Department. They contended that city residents would end up with worse service.

The combination idea, however, could be revisited in the future.

Lawsuit challenging ban on school aid will switch courts

LANSING (AP) — A lawsuit challenging Michigan's ban on public aid for private schools is moving to federal court.

The case was filed in state court in March by a Grand Rapids Catholic school, parents and some lawmakers. But it was withdrawn Tuesday after lawyers decided that federal court is a more appropriate venue. John Bursch said the lawsuit will be refiled.

The ban on public aid for private schools was added to the state Constitution in 1970. A judge earlier this year blocked Michigan from giving $2.5 million to private schools for fire drills, inspections and other state requirements.

But critics say the 1970 ban was deeply rooted in anti-Catholic sentiment. They say the prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution in a number of ways, including equal protection and free speech.

Groundbreaking ceremony held for new international bridge

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. and Canadian officials touted the friendship between the two countries while acknowledging the economic benefits a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, will bring.

A groundbreaking for the advance construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge was held Tuesday in southwest Detroit.

The six-lane, cable-stayed Canadian-financed span over the Detroit River is expected to provide direct connections to existing highway networks in Windsor and Detroit.

Construction could start in earnest by early October. The bridge is scheduled to open in 2020.

The Windsor-Detroit trade corridor is the busiest commercial land crossing on the border between the U.S. and Canada, handling more than 30 percent of trade hauled by trucks. Currently, the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel are the only commuter crossings between the two cities.

Unger loses appeal in wife's 2003 death at resort

BEULAH (AP) — A Detroit-area man convicted of killing his wife by dragging her into a northern Michigan lake has lost a key appeal, likely exhausting his efforts to get a new trial 15 years after the death.

Mark Unger argued that his rights were violated because his trial lawyer was ineffective, especially when he failed to object to provocative courtroom comments by the prosecutor.

But a federal appeals court last week rejected that claim, saying evidence against Unger was "overwhelming" and any failures by his lawyer were unlikely to affect the verdict in Benzie County.

Authorities said Florence Unger of Huntington Woods was pushed off the roof of a boathouse and dragged into Lower Herring Lake, where she drowned. Unger's lawyers argued that his wife accidentally fell and died from injuries. She was seeking a divorce.

Michigan twins run for Kent County seats as political opponents

KENTWOOD (AP) — Twin sisters are running for county commissioner seats, but they aren't endorsing one another.

Monica Sparks is running as a Democrat for Kent County's 12th District seat while her Republican sister, Jessica Ann Tyson, hopes to represent the 13th District.

Tyson's decision to run inspired her sister to launch her own campaign.

The sisters say they don't clash on the issues, but that they'll remain loyal to their parties and endorse each other's opponents.

They told WXMI-TV that their birth mother was addicted to heroin and they were adopted into a family that taught them to be civically engaged. When they were kids and even now, the twins say their mother never allowed them to argue about politics. Tyson says that while growing up, they didn't know which parties their parents identified with.

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