January 08, 2014 - By Dan Shriner
The second half of 2013 was a joy to be in Lake Orion.
Beautiful weather and some wonderful events such as the annual fireworks show and Dragon on the Lake brought tens of thousands of residents and others out for some great times on the water and in the communities.
The summer and fall in Lake Orion was truly living where life is a vacation.
Here are some of the highlights from the second half of 2013.
Four Lake Orion teens were key players on a volleyball team that won the Amateur Athletic Union's Girls 16 and Under National Championship in Orlando, Fla.
Katherine Carlson, Rachel Giwa, Bella Bucchi and Hannah Murdock were the four champions. Carlson and Bucchi attend Notre Dame Prep while Murdock and Giwa attend Lake Orion High School.
The team includes other girls from schools in Michigan. The team went 13-0 to win the title and became the first Michigan-based team in any age group to win an AAU open division championship.
Orion-area residents and thousands of others came out to see a great fireworks display on Lake Orion. The Lake Orion Fireworks Association put on the display, said by many to be one of the best in many years.
Plans and preparations were underway for the celebration of Lone Ranger Days in the Oxford and Lake Orion communities. The event was to honor the memory of Brace Beemer, who was the radio voice of the masked crime fighter from 1941 to 1954.
The event was to coincide with the release of the Lone Ranger movie starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.
Orion Township officials announced that 747 new homes were in the works for five residential developments in the community within the next year.
The developments include single family homes, apartments, condos and duplexes.
The large number of building s are more than most counties in Michigan will have in a year.
The great schools, location to shopping and proximity to lakes were given as some of the reasons why families want to come to the Orion area.
A state official with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) questioned whether fireworks over lakes in Lake Orion and other communities contributes to pollution in the waterways.
The official said he would like to see a study undertaken to address pollution concerns in such places as Detroit and Lake Orion, where commercial fireworks are shot off.
An official for the company that performed the fireworks over Lake Orion said efforts have been made in recent years to minimize pollution. He cited the use of bio-degradable paper and the elimination of some of the dangerous elements from fireworks in recent years.
Darwin McClary, who was serving as interim Lake Orion Village manager was given the position on a full time basis, following a vote by the village council.
Detroit Tiger great Miguel Cabrera visited Lake Orion to participate in the ProCamp Worldwide, a baseball camp for youth.
Cabrera provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience for 365 boys and girls who met the American League MVP. Coaches provided several hours of catching, throwing and batting skills.
The Village of Lake Orion denied a $1,200 fee waiver by Orion Township for demolition of three houses to make way for a new fire hall to be built within the village on Atwater St.
The township closed the purchase of the three homes to make way for the demolition followed by the construction that would benefit village residents.
The snub was obviously in response to a couple of moves by the township that upset village officials. One of them was the township opting to move its fire and EMT dispatch services from the village to Oakland County in order to save money.
Many Orion residents took a trip up to Oxford to participate in and enjoy the Lone Ranger parade that honored the late Brace Beemer, who was the radio voice of the masked crime fighter from 1941 to 1954.
The Lake Orion High School marching band participated as did Lake Orion Treasurer Mark Thurber who rode atop the Wells Fargo stagecoach, which visited the area.
Senior citizens from throughout Michigan came to Lake Orion High School to participate in the Michigan Senior Olympics. The games gave the athletes the chance to compete in track and field events and have fun while staying active.
Two requests from Lake Orion Schools seeking voter approval for bonds to make improvements and upgrades to buildings and equipment were soundly defeated. Both requests were soundly defeated.
Lake Orion Schools officials said they planned to make some difficult decisions in the months ahead.
Lake Orion High School football moms participated in a session at the high school in which they learned some of the things their sons must know as a Dragon football player.
The moms participated by learning some plays and drills.
Lake Orion High School has hired back 14 of the 26 teachers who were laid off a few months ago in budget cutting. In addition, four new teachers were hired. The four new hires were for positions that teachers on layoff were not qualified to teach.
Dragon on the Lake was a huge success in Lake Orion. The fifth annual event attracted thousands to downtown to enjoy the sights, sounds and food. Thousands also watched and many participated in dragon boat races on Lake Orion.
There were artists' works, an '80s party, a road race and a myriad of other events to enjoy.
The event, which is coordinated by the Orion Art Center and hundreds of volunteers, elicited high praise from everyone.
The football season opened with the annual game pitting the Lake Orion Dragons against the Oxford Wildcats.
The Dragons won the game, 35-30, after Oxford led 14-7 at halftime.
Lake Orion Village chose to go with the village of Oxford for its dispatching services beginning January 1, 2014. Oakland County also sought the services and promised to hire two of Lake Orion's dispatch employees, something that Oxford would not do. Oxford's offer to host dispatch was $20,000 the first year while Oakland County's bid was $21,632.
A new playground was approved at Friendship Park by Orion Township officials.
The new facility was needed because of deterioration of the old playground. There is a plastic bounder dubbed Mt. Kilimanjaro as well as three mega towers, bridges and a sand pit. Miracle Midwest planned to build a playground of composite materials and metals. The old playground was made mostly of wood.
Orion Township set millage rates for 2014. The rates are: 0.9322 for general fund; .9916 for fire services; 1.9832 for police services and another 1.0168 for other police services; and .2382 for safety paths. The total for all millages is 5.1620.
Lake Orion High School students adopted a themed approach on football Fridays in Dragon land. The themes included a patriotic day in which students waved flags and wore patriotic-themed clothing. They also had an aquatic night, dressing in goggles, floaties and fins.
Local businesses in Lake Orion and Orion Township have gotten aboard with the plan to welcome residents expected to settle into the proposed 747 new homes, apartments and condos to be built in the area.
The Lake Orion Area Chamber of Commerce helped to spearhead the plan with the help of local businesses to have more than 1,000 tote bags filled with goodies and specials from local businesses.
Lake Orion Village could face a lawsuit over a leaking water main. A 650-foot segment of the water line was skipped during upgrades made in 1998 and 1999.
A home on Fairview sustained damage due to the leaky line and homeowners there filed a $15,000 insurance claim, which was rejected by the village's insurance carrier.
A 60-year-old Lake Orion man was struck and killed along M-24 when he was struck by a vehicle as he was nearly prone in the roadway at about 8:30 p.m. According to police reports, the man was intoxicated and had dropped some of his liquor and was struck when he was in the roadway trying to pick it up.
The Lake Orion School District has identified $8 million in projects that must be made to pay for upkeep at several of the district's buildings. The plan is to pay for the repairs out of general fund dollars since voters rejected $33 million in bond projects.
The annual Lake Orion Homecoming parade through downtown was a huge success as Dragons of all ages, shapes and sizes cam into downtown to see the great LOHS marching band and other cool stuff.
Lake Orion Schools showed a decline in enrollment of about 81 students from last school year. The los of students means the district will see a reduction in state funds of about $642,000. The district receives about $7,877 per student.
It was the fourth consecutive year the district lost students . However, school officials were optimistic that a schools of choice program as well as plans for more than 700 new homes in Lake Orion would mean enrollment increases in coming years.
The annual Lake Orion homecoming football game was a great time for all Dragons as the team not only won its game against Pontiac, 62-13, but also qualified for the state playoffs with its sixth win on the season.
The highlight of the game was the last play in which a diminutive senior named Jabari Long was given a handoff and zig-zagged 63 yards for a touchdown in what was the only play of his high school career. Long was carried off the field by his teammates.
Lake Orion Village Councilman Mike Toth unexpectedly resigned from his seat. Toth said he had become jaded to the council and did not agree with some of the board's decisions and directions.
An appraisal was scheduled to determine the value of the Lake Orion Village offices at 37 E. Flint Street. The board was seeking an appraisal for the purpose of selling the building.
Village offices are scheduled to move to the old Orion Township Senior Center on Church Street, which village officials want to renovate and move into in the spring.
Lake Orion High School graduate Jeff Heath returned home to Michigan as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Heath was a rookie who earned a spot on the Cowboys starting team as a safety. Heath's journey to the NFL was improbable. He graduated from Saginaw Valley State University and was not drafted by any NFL team.
The Cowboys invited him to a tryout and were impressed with his knowledge of football as well as his abilities. He eventually worked his way to a starting position as a rookie.
Lake Orion Schools announced the district approved an $8.5 million energy bond and two installment purchase agreements to needed to make repairs to buildings in what were referred to "critical criticals."
The improvements include repairs of $550,000 to the CERC building and heating, and lighting and energy control upgrades for another $850,000.
Orion Township announced plans for a new fire hall near the General Motors Orion Assembly plant and the Eagle Valley Landfill. The hall is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
Susan Galeczka was named the new Lake Orion Village clerk. Long time clerk Arlene Nichols retired at the end of October.
Galeczka previously served as a deputy clerk in Rochester Hills. She also was a recording secretary on several Lake Orion boards and commissions.
Lake Orion's veterans and others across America honored those who served and died in the nation's wars with a ceremony on Veteran's Day at the Orion Center after cold and wet weather forced the ceremony inside.
Olivia Spolyar, a 17-year-old senior at Lake Orion, was killed in an automobile accident in Brandon Township. The teen's death shocked her friends and family, who called her inspirational to those who knew and loved her.
Orion Commons, a development of 102 family lots, 88 duplexes and a strip of commercial sites, received some initial approval by the Orion Township board.
The development will be in several phases in the area of Scripps and Lapeer Road. Pulte Homes is the designer of the residential structures.
Long time Lake Orion resident and businessman Joe Zimmer was honored as the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce's Business Person of 2013.
Zimmer is the owner of Culver's of Lake Orion and was cited for his numerous contributions to the community, including more than $125,000 given to the community through fundraisers and donations.
Brad Mathisen was chosen to replace Mike Toth on the Lake Orion Village Council.
There were three candidates for the open spot and council members cited Mathisen's interest in the village council and his attendance at meetings as one reason to select him.
Mathisen will serve until an election in November 2014.
The demolition of Whisky's was completed and a new parking lot opened at the corner of Anderson and Front Streets in Lake Orion. The new lot was to serve local businesses what needed the additional spots.
The site was donated and the DDA spent more than $170,000 to demolish the building and have the new parking lot installed.
Local police, firefighters and other law enforcement and safety personnel from Lake Orion and Orion Township participated in the annual "Shop with a Hero" event at the Meijer store in Oxford.
The heroes served 85 children in the Lake Orion and Oxford communities by providing funds that were raised and donated to help the kids and their families enjoy Christmas.
Each child got the attention of one of the heroes who helped them shop and pick out toys and other goodies for themselves and their family members.
The South African Key of Hope Children's Choir visited Orion Township for an evening of song.
The group, which are comprised of 22 orphans from Durban, South Africa, told their amazing stories in song, visuals and music at Always Christmas at Canterbury Village.
The Lake Orion Schools board of trustees voted to expand the district's Schools of Choice next year to include children up to eighth grade.
The district has limited outside enrollment to students in kindergarten through second grade but opted to expand it in order to attract more students. The district saw overall enrolment drop for the 201302014 school year by about 80 students and determined there was a need to try to attract more students.
The annual Lake Orion Christmas parade was a huge success as hundreds of residents packed downtown, braving freezing temperatures to watch a grand parade that lasted nearly an hour.
Of course Santa Claus made his annual appearance.
General Motors announced that it was spending about $13 million for the Orion Assembly Plant to construct a facility that will turn methane gas from the nearby Eagle Valley Landfill into electricity to be used at the facility.
Once completed, it will mean that about 54 percent of Orion Assembly's energy will be from renewable energy, making it the top GM plant in the nation to use renewable methane.