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Remembering 2011



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GHS girls basketball team won the regional championship in March. (click for larger version)

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On Feb. 26 the Brandon Blackhawks boys swim team won their second straight league championship. (click for larger version)

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Phil Reed and Shardae Rudel in Phantom of the Opera at BHS (Feb. 2011). (click for larger version)
December 28, 2011 - January

Assisted living facility planned

Goodrich- The village council voted 5-0 to approve a planning commission recommendation for a zoning amendment from low density residential to commercial in the central business district of the village. The change to approximately five acres just north of Oxford Bank on State Road is necessary, said village officials, for the construction of an assisted living complex for senior citizens.

The project, which is planned to begin in March 2012, will include two 12,000 square foot buildings with about 20 units in each structure.

"Based on our business model, we were a great fit for Goodrich," said Randy Legault, president and operations owner of The Pines Assisted Living Homes. "We seek the small community and create a very homelike atmosphere."

New hockey record

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Brandon Blackhawks Centerman Brett Loviska rewrote the high school record books with three shorthanded goals in the span of 23 seconds on Jan. 5 during an 8-0 route over the Lapeer East Eagles in Flint Metro League hockey action at Polar Palace in Lapeer.

Blackhawks Coach Steve Yuchasz contacted the Michigan High School Athletic Association regarding Loviska.

The MHSAA responded and reported that the three short-handed goals broke Ryan Blake's high school record of 1:14 in 1979 (even strength), and also broke two MHSAA State records (fastest three goals by an individual, fastest three goals by the same team) and may have established a new category altogether, said Yuchasz.

Cowan given 'leave of absence'

Brandon Twp.- Jamie Cowan was placed on a leave of absence Jan. 10 as executive director of fiscal affairs for the Brandon School District.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon declined to elaborate further, including whether the leave is paid or unpaid, temporary or permanent.

Cowan, a former Lewis & Knopf audit manager, was hired by the district in 2008 to replace Gary Kelley, who retired. In 2008, the district managed a $413,000 surplus, with total revenue of $30,187,429 and total expenses of $29,773,780. The projected ending fund balance was a healthy $4,256,608, or 14 percent.

However, in 2009, the board faced a budget shortfall of $1.1 million and in 2010, saying the district was facing "a fall off the cliff," Cowan formulated a budget plan approved by the board that included $3.5 million in cuts. The cuts were achieved by offering an early retirement incentive for various staffmembers, as well as lay-offs, reduction of secretary/media/clerk services, reduction of the technology and maintenance budgets, decreased curriculum purchases, and elimination of the police liaison officer position.

The district contracted with Steve Lenar, the assistant superintendent of administrative services for the Holly Area School District since 1997. Lenar's contract with Brandon called for him to be paid $23,220 to act as finance director for the district until the end of June.

Cowan would resign in March after "discrepancies were discovered."

Groveland marijuana

Groveland Twp.- Sean Robinson, a spokesperson for Caregivers of America, attended the township planning commission meeting to explore the possiblity of establishing a co-op for growing medical marijuana.

Township Supervisor Bob DePalma said he was contacted by Caregivers of America, who expressed interest in establishing their business in the community.

Robinson did not give details of when the formal proposal for the co-op would be presented to the township. He did, however, discuss some of the features regarding the business.

"We are a dispensary that will include growing facilities for marijuana, medical doctors, nurses and security," said Robinson.

DePalma said the Caregivers of America have a site in mind for the dispensary; however, the location within the township was not disclosed.

"There's a great deal to be decided rather than making this issue a political football," he said. "I do not want to see a 'carte blanche' refusal because I don't want the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) down our throats. I don't think it's the township's position to strike the law. It's legal in the state—it's now a zoning issue. The issue is now under what conditions do we allow medical marijuana despensaries."

Statson resigns

Long time township trustee Scott Statson resigned after accepting a job opportunity in southern California

"I have had the honor of representing the residents of Atlas Township for several years," said Statson.

Statson was reelected to his third term as township trustee in 2008, winning the primary election in August on the Republican ticket. He ran unopposed in November. In addition to more than 10 years as a trustee, Statson, 42, served eight years on the township planning commission.

Cable station move

OTV, the local cable access station (Channel 99), began looking for a new location to house its studio and broadcasting equipment after more than two decades of being at Brandon High School.

OTV and BHS had an arrangement since the 1980s where the high school provided a room and insurance while the township paid for broadcasting equipment. However, the agreement came to an end as the district took advantage of Career and Technical Education grant money and obeyed the rules that came along with receiving state and federal funds, expected to be about $60,000 in 2011. New cameras and production equipment were purchased with the funds.

OTV would later find a new home in a downtown Ortonville building. Cable Coordinator Greg Normand also received a written contract after more than a decade without one after the township board approved a consulting agreement detailing what is expected of him. The 1-year contract compensated Normand $30,000.

300 wins

Twenty-year veteran Goodrich Varsity Basketball Coach Gary Barns marked 300 wins on Jan. 21 as the Martians defeated Lake Fenton 74-52.

"I don't have a life," laughed Barns, 60. "I don't bowl, smoke, golf or drink. I'm boring, but I coach basketball. It's the greatest game. I never got into wins and losses—we just play. I tell the media we take it one game at a time."

Barns also coached the Goodrich JV Girls Basketball team from 1999-2006, taking the team to a remarkable 149-5 record. When the boys and girls basketball season changed to the winter season Barns stayed coaching the boys team.

February

Village Main Street reaccredited

Following a year-end evaluation, the village was reaccredited as a Main Street community. The evaluation measures the village's progress in the economic development and historic preservation program.

"Main Street is going great," said Main Street Manager Molly LaLone. "This is a very dedicated community and it's nice to get things done and have enthusiastic people to work with."

The village became a Main Street community in 2004. The 10 criteria used to evaluate progress in Main Street communities are broad-based community support; vision and mission statements; historic preservation ethic; paid, professional DDA/Main Street Program Director; program of ongoing training; reporting of key statistics; Main Street Network membership; comprehensive work plan; active board and committees and adequate operating budget. Communities must meet all 10 criteria annually to receive accreditation.

Student count

The number of students in the Goodrich School District was reported down from the September 2010 count, while Brandon remained unchanged.

Following the February count day Goodrich had 2,118 students, 22 less than the 2,140 in September 2010. In Brandon, count day revealed 3,354 students, the exact same number as when students were counted in September.

"Usually the count goes down at this time, so it's a very positive outcome that it has stayed the same," said Brandon Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "I hope it means things are turning around. We have had a decline in the count every year since 2006."

Sidge ousted

Goodrich- By a 3-2 vote at a special meeting the village council approved a motion to request the resignation of village administrator Jakki Sidge.

In addition, the council voted to request Sidge return keys to any and all locked doors, cabinets in the village of Goodrich administrative building, DPW garage, DPW vehicles and DPW offices. Sidge was also requested to make her computer available to copy the hard drive and ordered to not delete any e-mails.

Councilmembers Phil Jackson and Doug McAbee and President Patricia Wartella voted yes. Councilmembers Pete Morey and Rick Horton voted no. In the absence of village attorney Jack Belzer, attorney Jim Hammon attended the meeting, but did not comment.

"We just spent $3,000 to interview Sidge with the village study for no good reason," said Horton. "Who's going to run the village on a day-to-day basis?"

Sidge declined comment.

"The decision is because (Sidge) does not recognize the majority of the council since the election (in November)," said Wartella prior to the vote.

Sidge had served as the village administrator for about the last 15 years. At a regular village meeting a few days later, she supplied a letter of resignation to the village council.

Goodrich bond passed

Goodrich voters narrowly approved a $15.4 million bond extension with 930 yes votes (52 percent) to 847 no (48 percent). About 23 percent of registered voters turned out.

"The vote was close, but in these tough times there has to be concern, said Goodrich Schools Superintendent John Fazer. "The proposal is strong for kids. It allows us some relief on the operating millage."

There will be no tax increase for area residents.

School officials said the bond money will be used for: educational facilities, 41 percent; technology, 30 percent; athletics, 13 percent; energy upgrades, 11 percent; and safety/ADA, 5 percent.

Brandon swim first

On Feb. 26 the Brandon Blackhawks boys swim team won their second straight league championship.

In the six-team meet, the Blackhawks won six of the 12 events with 560 points, 130.5 more than runner-up Fenton. Individually, the Blackhawks placed in the top three in the 12 events.

The Blackhawks, who finished their season 5-0 in the Metro League, surpassed their 443-point total last year, said Brandon Coach Todd Duncan.

March

School faces state cuts

In the face of devastating proposed cuts to education, Brandon Schools Superintendent Lorrie McMahon urged parents to contact state legislators.

"Tell them that holding our students hostage is not acceptable," said McMahon. "They need to return the school aid fund back to the K-12 program it is designed to support. We talk about the necessity of quality education for the state of Michigan. Quality education doesn't come free, it needs to be paid for."

Governor Rick Snyder proposed a state budget that included across the board cuts of $300 per pupil. This was in addition to the formerly enacted $170 per-pupil cut, resulting in a loss of nearly $500 in the per-pupil allowance. In Brandon, which currently has 3,355 students, this would equal a $1.6 million decrease in funding and put the district at roughly the same funding level they had five years ago.

In Goodrich, which has 2,118 students, the reductions would mean a loss of $631,017 in funding.

"The school budget will drop from about $18 million to $16 million," said Goodrich Superintendent John Fazer.

In Brandon, where the school board made nearly $3 million in cuts last year and still had to take more than $600,000 from the fund balance to make up a remaining shortfall, McMahon was not as optimistic.

"The proposed cuts mean we have to figure out how to fill a $4 million gap in our budget," she said. "The biggest part of our budget is people... Lay-offs are a very real possibility."

Goodrich grads safe after Japan quake, tsunami

Three Goodrich High School graduates, Tony Onica, class of 2005, and Martina Campbell, class of 1998, as well as her husband, Air Force Tech Sgt. Kennoth Campbell, class of 1997, experienced an earthquake that shook Japan March 11, registering an 8.9 magnitude on the Richter Scale. The earthquake also spawned a tsunami and killed more than 10,000 people. Subsequent nuclear reactor explosions forced thousands inside.

Onica, who lives and works as a teacher in the Kanto region of Japan, a large part of the Tokyo metropolitan area, was teaching a class of juniors on the third floor of a high school in the capital of Tochigi-ken, Utsunomiya when the quake began.

"It's a strange experience feeling the earth, which is always a stable constant, moving beneath your feet," he said. "When the building started to sway, I realized there was little we could do if things got worse. All we could do was be prepared to evacuate the building after the main shock subsided, and so that's what we did. Although the main quake was probably only 3-5 minutes long, it was accompanied by aftershocks that made it seem unending."

Martina Campbell lives with husband Kennoth and their daughter, Mariska, in Misawa, about 400 miles north of Tokyo. Martina teaches and coaches track at a high school on the Misawa Air Force base and was traveling with the track team when their train suddenly stopped.

"The quake lasted for a long time—like a minute or more," she said. "Then there was aftershock after aftershock—I was nervous and scared, because I was not sure of when it would end."

Martina said that the seaport by the city of Misawa was damaged in the quake by waves.

"The wave never came inland far enough to reach us," she said. "But the waves pushed fishing boats inland— some are in the trees. Many of the fields were washed away. None of the military personnel were hurt, but some of the teachers lost homes and farms and are looking for family members. After the quake, supplies came to us from home including batteries and clothes for our daughter. It's nice to know there are people back here supporting us."

DeWitt resigns as trustee

Bob DeWitt resigned from the township board after more than six years as a trustee.

DeWitt, 53, submitted a letter of resignation dated March 10, explaining that he had purchased a horse farm in Addison Township and as of March 15, would have rented and moved out of his Brandon home.

"The board is faced with a lot of work and difficult decisions in the coming months," wrote DeWitt in his letter. "I wish I could fulfill my term and duties as I do not like leaving a job undone or the challenges the board faces, but that is not possible."

DeWitt, who has a law practice in the township, was elected to the township board in November 2004. He was replaced in April by Dana DePalma.

Marijuana moratorium

Uncertainty and lack of definition in the law prompted the Brandon Township Board to unanimously pass a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana during their March 21 board meeting.

"We haven't gotten guidance from the state on how to enforce this," said Supervisor Kathy Thurman. "It's prudent for the township to pass a medical marijuana moratorium. There are still too many questions on the best way to enforce the Medical Marijuana Act."

On Nov. 4, 2008, Michigan voters approved by 63 percent the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The law went into effect Dec. 4, 2008. According to the state regulation, patients may possess up to two and one-half (2.5) ounces of usable marijuana and 12 marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. The 12 plants may be kept by the patient only if he or she has not specified a primary caregiver to cultivate the marijuana for him or her.

The board opted for a 180-day moratorium which stated there shall be no consideration or action by any board member, official, employees, commission or again on any proposal to establish a land use, activity, business or facility relating to the "medical use" of marijuana in the township, including no action on any application for a zoning or building permit, approval or certificate for such a land use, activity, business or facility; nor shall medical marijuana land uses, activities, business or facilities be permitted in the township.

GHS girls basketball team wins regional championship

The Goodrich girls varsity basketball team defeated Frankenmuth March 10 to win the regional championship.

Coached by Jason Gray, the team has a season record of 24-2-0. Their postseason run ended with a double overtime loss to Dearborn Divine Child in the state semi-final Class B championship game on March 18.

Long-time Brandon Trustee Willett dies

Former long-time Brandon Township Trustee Sandy Willett was remembered as a woman who was very involved in the community and fun to be around. Willett died March 21 at the age of 65.

Elected to the Brandon Township Board in 1988, Willett served as a trustee for 20 consecutive years, until 2008.

"She was very active in her beginning years, and served on a lot of committees," recalled Karen McArthur, township deputy clerk. "If you needed help, she would be there. She was very community-minded and participated in many events, offering support and doing what she could."

Besides serving on the Brandon Township Board for 20 years, Willett was also a member of the Brandon Library Board, the Ortonville Order of the Eastern Star, the Ortonville Women's Club, the VFW Auxiliary, and the Red Hat Society.

Schools of choice

Brandon Twp.- Controversy over schools of choice came to a head during a school board study session March 29 attended by approximately 100 people and during which Superintendent Lorrie McMahon recommended the program become a yearly discussion.

The district had six schools of choice students in 1996, the year of its inception. In March, the district had 392 schools of choice students, with the majority (about 200) coming from Pontiac. Other SOC students come from districts including Oxford, Holly, Goodrich, Clarkston, Bentley, Clawson, Davison, Grand Blanc, Lake Orion, Lapeer, and Waterford. McMahon and some school board members (past and present) have defended schools of choice, citing the revenue it brings to the district (roughly $2.9 million) as well as the diversity it brings. Critics have raised concerns about behavior problems from SOC students, lower test scores, and lower property values (people don't have to live in the district, but can still gain the benefit of the schools).

McMahon gave a presentation on schools of choice to answer public concerns, including explanations of the application process, taxes and school funding, and data on test scores and student suspensions.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several audience members spoke, including some out of district parents who support schools of choice and pleaded with board members to keep it, and some district residents who called for the program to be eliminated or reduced.

McMahon said the board will continue to study the issue and gather facts before making a decision that will be best for all students.

Judge rules for McAbee

A circuit court judge ruled former Goodrich village councilman David Lucik did not show damages when newly elected councilman Doug McAbee failed to sign the oath of office document within 10 days of the date he was notified of his election to office.

Judge Geoffrey Neithercut, of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, heard the case on March 28 and 30 following a challenge on a procedural issue regarding the election of McAbee specified by the Charter of Goodrich.

Under the direction of Council President Patricia Wartella, McAbee signed the oath on Dec.13 without the majority vote of the council needed for an time extension. McAbee continued to serve on the council.

Lucik was seeking injunctive relief that requires a party to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts. In this case, McAbee as a councilman. The judge also determined the village charter had been updated in 2005 and the time to sign the charter was expanded from 10 to 30 days.

"The judge said I did not violate the Goodrich Village Charter and my standing as a village council member stands," said McAbee. "Time would have been better spent balancing the village budget rather than in court."

Amman named trustee

Atlas Twp.- When incumbent township supervisor Paul Amman lost the August 2010 primary election, as well as a November write-in bid to current Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones, his 14-year stint as a local official appeared to be over.

It wasn't.

"There's no sour grapes," said Amman, 72, who was appointed by a 3-1 vote on March 28 to complete the term of township trustee Scott Statson, who resigned earlier this year. "She (Jones) won the election fair and square, my job is to work for the township."

Jones voted no. Trustee Barry June, Clerk Tere Onica and Treasurer Ann Marie Slagel voted for Amman.

Amman was selected during a special meeting over Rick Misek, John Sheerin, and Thomas Sanford after the board opened the position up to the community. A total of 12 candidates applied for the seat, which pays $5,618.04 per year.

Atlas, Brandon populations increase, Census shows

Data released from the 2010 U.S. Census showed that in the past 10 years, the population of both Atlas and Brandon townships increased, while Groveland decreased.

In Atlas Township, the population grew by 736 residents, swelling from 7,257 in 2000 to 7,993 in 2010. The 2010 census results showed Brandon Township has 15,175 residents, compared to 14,765 in 2000, an increase of 410.

Conversely, Groveland Township's population slid from 6,150 in 2000 down to 5,476 in 2010.

April

Principals named

The school board unanimously approved during their April 11 meeting the hiring of Cathy Kochanski as the new Belle Ann Elementary School principal, as well as the promotion of Celeste Nowacki to principal of Brandon High School.

"We did an extensive search for both principals," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon, adding the board had six candidates for the elementary position, and five for the high school. "They went through rigorous interviews and reference checks and a great deal of discussion by the interview committee about their qualifications and I think we have picked two people who fit well with Brandon and our goal of becoming better."

Kochanski replace retiring Belle Ann Principal Mark Rodak, while Nowacki was promoted to take over for Mike Ferguson, who retired as BHS principal.

Teachers support 'job actions'

Brandon Twp.- During a Brandon Education Association meeting April 12, members voted to support the Michigan Education Association in multiple courses of action leading up to and including a "job action" in order to "voice displeasure" with Gov. Rick Snyder's cuts to education.

Steve Hendershott, BEA President and Brandon Middle School teacher, said the vote was 60 percent to 40 percent in favor of supporting the MEA. He declined to give exact numbers for how many BEA teachers voted for supporting action and how many voted against. Other local districts voting in favor of supporting MEA in the cause include Goodrich, Clarkston, Lake Orion, Oxford and Lapeer. The MEA, the statewide teachers union, has more than 157,000 members.

The "job actions" the MEA encouraged teachers to do included wearing red on Tuesdays to draw attention to their cause and participating in "Grade-ins," where teachers grade papers or do other school work they would normally do at home in a public place, and also speak with the general public about the budget and the effect it will have on schools.

Goodrich Schools lay-offs

The Goodrich School Board voted 7-0 to issue 25 pink slips to district teachers in an effort to rectify a projected $2.8 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year.

The layoff notices were based on seniority and which teacher is qualified to teach a specific subject. The employees, along with the Goodrich Education Association, were notified prior to the May 1 contract deadline. The district currently employs 109 teachers.

Goodrich School District Superintendent John Fazer said the current situation with funding in the state is critical.

"We don't want to be fighting for our economic lives," he said. "We had better learn how to succeed with what we have. I know emotions run high in these times. We just have to be smart."

Fazer said that based on the initial budget proposal by Gov. Rick Snyder, Goodrich was projecting a $2.8 million deficit for 2011-12 with a current fund balance of $2.5 million.

The district later reduced the lay-offs to seven teachers.

Ortonville picked

Ortonville- John Henski was out working in the wood shop in his barn on April 18 when the white van pulled into the driveway in the 400 block of Ortonville Road.

The van had "American Pickers" emblazoned on the side, the name of a television reality show that airs on the History Channel and Lifetime and features Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, who travel the country in search of antiques and collectibles.

Fritz and Wolfe had spotted a Cadillac that was for sale out front, as well as an antique gas pump and had stopped to see what other treasures might be found at the M-15 home. The pickers were even more interested in the 1929 Ford Model A Coupe at the home. On April 21, they came back and stayed for more than three hours, with the show's crew looking over multiple items. After dickering, Fritz purchased the Model A for $6,500 and told Henski he plans to keep it for himself and have it restored to its original condition.

"I spent about two hours with Frank, he's right down to earth, reasonable," said Henski. "They seemed like common folk, he talks like a red-blooded American."

The Ford Model A coupe was featured on a late August episode.

May

Wartella out

Goodrich-After serving just five months as village council president, Patricia Wartella was recalled from office following the May 1 election.

Village voters opted to remove Wartella with 317 votes (55 percent) to 260 votes (45 percent).

In November, Wartella was voted in as council president after new councilmembers Doug McAbee and Phil Jackson defeated incumbent council president Edmund York along with Dave Lucik. Following the election, McAbee and Jackson, along with Wartella, voted her council president. Councilmembers Pete Morey and Rick Horton voted against the nomination.

Since then, the village has been in turmoil sparked by the removal of Village Administrator Jakki Sidge, the hiring of a new village attorney, and several heated council meetings. The row prompted recall efforts in December.

Wartella's term was to expire in November 2012.

SOC recommendations

Brandon Twp.- The school board approved three changes to the Schools of Choice guidelines during their May 9 meeting— a yearly review of the program after the September count; academic assessments for each new student; and no admission of SOC students for the second and third trimesters.

Not accepting SOC students in the second and third trimesters will mean a loss of about $131,000 in revenue, said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon, based on the 19 SOC students that were accepted in the 2010-11 school year in those trimesters.

A fourth recommendation, to eliminate acceptance of SOC students in 10th, 11th and 12 grades, failed due to concern that six students who currently reside here and may be moving out of the district, but want to continue to attend school here as SOC students, would not be able to under the new rule.

GHS principal to Afghanistan

The Goodrich School Board announced that GHS Principal David St. Aubin would return to active duty and serve a year-long stint in Afghanistan beginning in July.

This was to be the second year-long tour by St. Aubin while serving as principal at GHS. In October 2008, St. Aubin was called to active duty and served a year in Iraq. His mission was to help train Iraqi soldiers so they can better provide security for their own nation. St. Aubin resumed his duties as principal in January 2010 after his first tour.

Wage cuts in Goodrich

The Goodrich School Board voted to OK a labor contract with the Custodians, Maintenance, Para-Pros and Transportation labor group.

The contract included a 5.5 percent reduction in compensation for the 61 employees, which was to save the district about $120,000.

Betty Butterworth, president of the CMPT, said the reduction will save jobs.

"The administration threatened to privatize our jobs," she said. "Most of the 61 live in Goodrich and are members of the community and have years of seniority. I have 19 years with the district as a bus driver and am very dedicated to my students. We did agree in the contract to a wage opener for the 2012-13 school year. I hope by then the district is in better shape to reverse the concession."

Editor's Note: See next week's edition for the continuation of 2011 Year in Review, June through December.

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