SW Michigan Today: Friday, February 22

Feb 22, 2019

Governor Gretchen Whitmer stopped in Kalamazoo Thursday afternoon. After a tour of Kalamazoo Valley Community College's culinary program, Whitmer said Michigan can do more to put students on a path to high-paying careers. The governor says she wants 60-percent of Michigan students to finish college or a job trainging program by 2030. Whitmer also says she wants to offer every graduating high school senior a debt-free community college degree, an affordable four-year degree, or training in the skilled trades. Whitmer says she’ll announce details of her plan when she delivers her budget proposal to lawmakers on March 5th.

Governor Whitmer says a new state environmental agency she’s proposed would focus on cleaning up PFAS contamination around the state. Whitmer wants to reorganize the Department of Environmental Quality. Her first attempt was blocked by majority Republicans at the State Capitol. But she issued a new executive order on Wednesday. [Update: The Detroit News reports that Republican leaders have indicated they won't oppose the new order.] Whitmer says it would map and clean-up PFAS areas. The governor says the previous Republican administration ignored the problem for years. But Whitmer adds that she’s made changes to prevent that from happening again. Whitmer’s proposal would rename the DEQ as the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to study PFAS exposure near several military bases around the country, but not in Michigan. MLive reports that’s a disappointment for residents of Oscoda who live near Wurtsmith Air Force Base. PFAS compounds from firefighting foam have polluted drinking water and surface water near the base. State health officials say Michigan has its own plans to take blood samples to learn about PFAS exposure in Oscoda, but they have not said when that testing would begin.

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra will have two interim executive directors. The symphony says Judy Jollife and Dan Gustin will fill in while it looks for someone to replace former executive director Peter Gistelinck, who left suddenly earlier this month. Jollife was the symphony's interim director from 2013 to 2014 and was the head of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. Gustin was the director of the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo for 18 years.

One of the nation's major television networks plans to air a long report about the 2016 mass shooting in Kalamazoo County. ABC's news program 20/20 calls the special two-hour segment "The Deadly Ride." Six people died and two others were seriously hurt in the shootings by former Uber driver Jason Dalton. He's been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty last month. The ABC documentary is scheduled to air Friday, February 22, at 9 p.m.

(Kalamazoo Gazette) The busy intersection of Oakland Drive and Howard Street in Kalamazoo will stay closed until Monday. Consumers Energy has fixed a gas main leak that closed the intersection on Tuesday. But city officials say they need to finish "major repairs" to the pavement before it re-opens. Kalamazoo Public Services Director James Baker says he expects the Oakland-Howard intersection will be open for normal traffic by 7 a.m. Monday, February 25.

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