AROUND THE STATE: House, Senate stalemate stalls money for sinkhole, Flint water pipes

WAITING ON FUNDING: The temporary sewer bypass piping is shown on March 17 on top of 15 Mile Road near the sewer collapse and sinkhole in Fraser. (TNS/Christina Hall/Detroit Free Press)

WAITING ON FUNDING: The temporary sewer bypass piping is shown on March 17 on top of 15 Mile Road near the sewer collapse and sinkhole in Fraser. (TNS/Christina Hall/Detroit Free Press)

From Tribune News Service Reports

LANSING — A stalemate Thursday on whether to give Macomb County a $3-million grant or a $5-million loan to help fix the football field-size sinkhole in Fraser will also hold up sending $100 million in federal funding to Flint to replace lead-tainted water lines.

The House of Representatives reversed action taken by the Senate on Wednesday, restoring the money as a $3-million grant, rather than the $5-million loan passed by the Senate. But the 101-7 vote means that neither Flint nor Macomb County will get any funding until after April 18 because the Senate adjourned earlier Thursday and won’t be back until its spring break ends.

“This issue is about 600,000 families being seriously affected by this awful interceptor collapse,” said state Rep. William Sowerby, R-Clinton Township, whose district includes the sinkhole. He added that 150,000 of those families are affected daily with the threat of sewage backup in their basements during a heavy rainstorm.

“This guy has seriously ticked me off,” added Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, referring to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. “Macomb County seems to be collateral damage in some kind of tantrum he’s having.”

The supplemental budget bill went through several iterations:

  • On March 22, the House of Representatives voted 101-7 to approve supplemental budget bills that sent the $100 million to Flint and a $3-million grant to Macomb County to help with the sinkhole that has destroyed three homes and affected more than 550,000 residents.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate changed the $3-million grant to a $5-million loan, saying it didn’t want to set a precedent of sending money to locals to fix their infrastructure. The move infuriated Macomb County lawmakers and caused Miller to unload on Meekhof, calling him arrogant and pompous. “Term limits can’t come fast enough for some people,” she added.
  • On Thursday, the Senate adjourned shortly after 11 a.m. and will be on a spring break until April 18. The House voted 101-7 to change the loan back to a grant and adjourned for its spring break, returning April 19.


Second suspect arrested in Gladwin County meth case

GLADWIN COUNTY — A second suspect has been charged in connection with a meth lab uncovered in Gladwin County earlier this month.

Jonathon Mackey, 38, Gladwin, has been arraigned on charges of maintaining a lab methamphetamine, possession of meth and possession of pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture meth, as well as a habitual offender notice. His bond is set at $500,000 cash or surety, the Gladwin County Sheriff’s Office reports.

The charges stem from an investigation that began when deputies arrested three men in Butman Township on outstanding warrants on March 16. During the arrests, deputies recovered meth and the components necessary to make the drug.

That investigation led to a search warrant for a Secord Township location. Deputies and a Michigan State Police trooper from the West Branch Post conducted that search warrant on March 20 and recovered evidence consistent with the ongoing manufacture and use of methamphetamine, a media release states.

Previously charged with identical counts was Alex Robert Emigh, 22, Gladwin. His bond is set at $100,000 cash or surety.

The investigation is ongoing, with warrants pending for additional suspects.


12-foot inflatable Oberon bottle stolen in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO —An inflatable bottle of Bell’s Brewery’s Oberon, worth $2,000, was stolen in Kalamazoo early Tuesday morning, the day after the annual release of the seasonal wheat ale, police said.

The bottle stands more than 12 feet tall and was stolen at about 4:30 a.m. near 100 West Michigan, according to a news release from Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. Anyone who knows the person or has information on the theft is asked to call Kalamazoo police at (269) 337-8139.

Oberon is made at Bell’s Brewery in nearby Comstock. Its annual release, just ahead of Detroit Tigers baseball season, is often a celebration of winter’s end for many Michiganders.


Amash-Trump feud continues in wake of Obamacare loss

WASHINGTON — A word of warning before President Donald Trump decides to go after U.S. Rep. Justin Amash next year: It’s been tried before and it didn’t work out too well.

On Friday morning, Trump, apparently still smarting from being forced last week to drop a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in the face of conservative intransigence, went on Twitter to say his supporters “must fight” members of the so-called Freedom Caucus that opposed the bill, presumably drumming up opposition for them in next year’s elections if they “don’t get on the team & fast.”

That would include Amash, a Republican from Cascade Township, who was clear in his refusal to back House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to replace the 2010 Democratic-led health care reform law throughout recent weeks, saying its system of continuing subsidies and insurance requirements effectively made it “Obamacare 2.0.”

Amash — a fourth-term congressman who has never been a favorite of GOP leadership — even went further last week after Ryan was forced to abandon a vote he and Trump had predicted they would win, tweeting that the U.S. House, “is supposed to be a deliberative body where outcomes are discovered, not dictated.”

If Trump is true to his word — and it’s never easy to know how serious he is when he posts comments, since just last week he blamed Democrats, not the Freedom Caucus, for the health care loss — he could bring considerable pressure to bear on Amash.

As president, after all, he is effectively the leader of the Republican Party and the state and national apparatus would almost certainly follow his lead, potentially hurting Amash’s fund-raising and get-out-the-vote efforts.


Warner Norcross part of Chemical Financial’s big deal

MIDLAND — Warner Norcross & Judd LLP represented Chemical Financial Corp. in a transaction being recognized as one of the biggest deals in Michigan during 2016.

Arecent edition of Crain’s Detroit Business ranked Chemical’s $1.2 billion merger with Talmer Bancorp as the ninth largest deal last year — and the largest for the Great Lakes Bay Region. The transaction, announced in January 2016 and closed in August with a value of $1.7 billion, made Chemical Financial Corp. the largest banking company headquartered and operating branch offices in Michigan.

The bank, which is headquartered in Midland, will celebrate a century of doing business later this month. It operates 249 branches in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

This is the fourth transaction in the past three years for Chemical Financial, all of them led by the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Warner Norcross. In addition to Talmer, the other transactions were: Lake Michigan Financial Corp., acquired for $187 million in 2015; Monarch Community Bancorp, Inc., purchased for $27 million in 2015; and Northwestern Bancorp, Inc., bought for $121 million in 2014.

Jeffrey A. Ott and Charlie Goode lead the Chemical transaction team.


Beaverton man charged in Mount Pleasant crash, pursuit

MIDLAND — A 21-year-old Beaverton man is facing charges in connection with a hit and run accident and police pursuit that occurred Monday in Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant Police report Nathaniel Horn was arrested for fleeing and eluding police and leaving the scene of an accident. He has been arraigned, and bond is set at $8,000, 10 percent, a media release states.

The incident occurred at 8:45 p.m. Monday, when officers were called to a hit and run accident at the intersection of Mission and High streets. A witness saw the accident and watched the suspect flee the scene. The witness provided central dispatch with the suspect’s vehicle information and the direction in which it was traveling.

The suspect vehicle continued northbound on Mission Street and merged onto US-127. Officers located and attempted to stop the vehicle by activating their emergency lights and siren, but the driver continued northbound for about two miles before stopping.


Prison food vendor in line for $4M contract boost

LANSING — Three of the five prison food workers at Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson walked off the job Wednesday after they were disciplined — the same day a House budget subcommittee approved a $4-million increase for the contractor that hired them, Florida-based Trinity Services Group.

Trinity replaced problem-plagued Aramark Correctional Services in September 2015. Though complaints have declined under Trinity, the company has been hit with nearly $2.5 million in contract penalties for inadequate staffing levels and other problems since it took over.

“Last night, after the dinner meal was prepared, three of the five Trinity workers at the Cotton facility left and quit,” Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz told the Detroit Free Press on Thursday. “These employees had recently been reprimanded by their Trinity supervisor for performance issues.”

Gautz said the warden called an additional corrections officer into each of the two prison chow halls to supervise dinner, but the officers did not prepare or serve the food.

“There were no delays, substitutions or issues during the meal,” Gautz said. “This morning, Trinity was at full staff for breakfast and there were no issues today at chow.” Trinity, which is hiring more staff for Cotton, “was able to pull from staff at the three other Jackson prisons to ensure they had proper staffing today.”

The walk-out happened just a few hours after the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections approved a 2018 Corrections Department budget that includes a $4-million increase for Trinity, for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Trinity was awarded a three-year, $158.8-million contract in 2015, but the contract provided for annual increases of 1 percent or the inflation rate — whichever is greater. Officials calculated the inflationary increase at 2.6 percent, based on a 10-year average of a relevant piece of the Consumer Price Index, Gautz said.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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