December 29, 2010 - This week, come along as The Review recounts the places and faces that filled our pages in the first half of 2010 for Year in Review, part I:
|Petar Simic in the fly. (click for larger version)|
A cougar in Lake Orion? - Pam Cheney, a Keatington subdivision resident, found large cat tracks in her back yard belonging to what she thought was a cougar and her neighbor claimed to have seen the big cat at about 7:30 one morning. Bob Remer, Bald Mountain park supervisor says he'd be "flabbergasted" if there really was a cougar in the neighborhood.
Snowy crash claims three young lives - Three teenage girls died on their way to school when the car they were riding in slid into oncoming traffic on a snowy Orion Township roadway. Police said Barbara Felder, 39, was headed north on Joslyn Road when she lost control of her vehicle and slid into the path of an oncoming pick-up truck. Ashley Felder, 14, was pronounced dead on the scene. Sy'mone Analyse Nicole Johnson and Brianna Marie Latreese Johnson, 14-year-old twins, were dead at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital
Hot on the ice - Dragon icers returned from the holiday break picking up from where they left off by earning two victories in the first week of the new year.
District: Teachers' contract to save millions - The approved contract with Lake Orion Education Association (LOEA) was set to save the school district millions of dollars over the next several years. The board of education voted to approve the contract, 5-1, with the dissenting vote coming from Treasurer Jim Weidman.
Progress with a price - Downtown's streetscape project was expected to improve both the village's infrastructure and aesthetics, but at what price to business owners? Owners like Carl Slomczenski, of CJ's Lakeside Grill, aren't thrilled with the pending project. He said the last time there was construction downtown his profits went down around 15 percent.
4-2 vote puts Lafayette at high school's helm – The school board officially handed over the reins to LOHS principal candidate Sophia Lafayette with a 4-2 vote. Boardmembers Bob Gritzinger and Jim Weidman were the dissenting votes, citing her lack of experience as a principal as the reason. Tiffany Weber-Phillips was not at the meeting and did not vote.
Hoopsters are opening eyes – In 2009, the boys' basketball team won a total of 4 games. One year later, they were 5-4, with the season only half over.
Swimmers leave competitors in their wake - Before the winter break, the boys' swim team competed in four dual meets and in all cases, Lake Orion was victorious.
Sex slave suspects to stand trial - Leon Jeffrey Setty, 54, and Frank Brian Bennett, 47, both longtime residents of Lake Orion, were slated to stand trial for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. The pair were arraigned Nov. 11, 2009 after they allegedly beat and raped a 52-year-old Orion Township woman held captive in their home for nearly two months.
Raising the bar - The Dragons hosted a state regional powerlifting and the boys' varsity — two time defending state champs — raised the bar and took first place. Boys' junior varsity landed a number three spot, while the girls' powerlifting squad pressed on for a second place finish.
Thousands flock to job fair - With temperatures hovering in the mid 20s, thousands of bundled up area residents waited an hour – or more – to get inside a job fair held in Orion Township's UAW hall. Nearly 25 companies awaited 2,000 hopefuls at the fair, put on by UAW Local 5960, Orion Area Chamber of Commerce, Orion Township and Hired on the Spot.
Orion man robbed by trio toting loaded assault rifle – After robbing an Auburn Hills man, Steven Vang, 17, and brothers Jerry Herr, 18, and Rocky Herr, 17, all of Pontiac, took after a 40-year-old Orion Township man who was returning from work. The masked teenagers—brandishing a fully-loaded assault rifle—walked out of the early morning darkness and demanded his wallet, cell phone and car keys.
Hoopsters tied for number two spot – After a 47-38 win over Rochester Adams, the boys were 7-5, and ranked 10th in the OAA power rankings, putting them in a three-way tie with Rochester Adams and Stoney Creek for second place in their league.
Gibb: We're starting to live by a new philosophy - Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb summarized 2009 events, noting the effects of Chrysler and GM bankruptcies on the community, as well as a number of smaller companies who went belly-up last year. Property values continued to fall, and while foreclosures were down from 2008, Orion still saw 210 homes lost last year. It was a snowball effect that rolled right into township revenues, originally budgeted at $6.3 million.
Brains and brawn: A deadly combination - Twelve of Lake Orion's finest athletes signed on to universities and colleges across the Midwest. Reed Losee, Derek Schrauben, Julianne Boyle, Hailey Redd, Jessica LaBond, Alyssa Mason, Ben Walker, Kane Hayes, John Hill, Pat Fehlberg, Andy Mosier and Collin McGran signed Letters of Intent, binding them to play for universities as far away Pittsburgh, PA.
Grapplers pin down second place in league play - Varsity wrestlers completed their regular season with a second place finish in Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division. Coaching staff say it was a very respectable regular season as Lake Orion competes in the toughest of the three OAA leagues.
Ski teams narrowly miss league championship; three skiers will move on – The ski teams competed in the Divisional at Pine Knob and both narrowly missed qualifying for the South Eastern Michigan Ski League Championship meet by just one place. However, Lake Orion did have 3 individual qualifiers: Steven Basigkow, Allison Mitchell and Marie Dohm represented Lake Orion.
|Allison Mitchell (click for larger version)|
Hitting the road - While fewer Michigan residents could mean less Federal stimulus money and fewer seats in the House of Representatives (see The Review's two-part census coverage), the state's – and Orion's – out-migration lends itself to another issue: What happens when the community leaders leave? Ex-Orionites include former Village Council President Rob Reetz and Parks and Recreation committee volunteer Richard Solomon, both of whom hit the road last fall for job opportunities.
Chip off the old block schedule - Ready or not, Lake Orion High School was officially heading down the path of modified block scheduling. This concept, brought up several years ago, was set in stone as the high school's new plan for classes. The new modified block entails both block and "skinny" classes, 90 minutes and 45 minutes in length, respectively.
On top at districts - After districts, six of 14 Lake Orion wrestlers advanced to regionals: AJ Fligger, Matt Musary, Adam Gros, Willie Stewart and Josh Hofman.
|Dragons compete at the Palace. (click for larger version)|
Orion property values drop by 12.8 percent - In Orion Township, residential taxable values—also called state equalized values, or SEVs—were down 12.8 percent. Between Oct. 1, 2008 and Sept. 30, 2009, Rick Vincent, administrator for the Oakland County Equalization Department, said Orion Township and Lake Orion saw a combined 202 home sales. Of those, average sale price was around $228,600.
Jubilee rolls over to Canterbury – The Lake Orion Lion's Club chose to move their Fourth of July Jubilee to Canterbury.
"We've been doing this for 50 years, so it's kind of a shame," President Jack Patton said, noting they were forced to move because of the downtown streetscape project planned for the summer.
Gone in a second: Lady cagers' win stolen - With a buzzer-beating shot, North Farminton Raiders wrenched the lead from the Lady Dragons, Feb. 18, giving them a 49-48 win. The Dragons's would-be hero, Maddi Gagen, nailed a three-pointer with 11 seconds left, looking for a 48-47 win. But with one second on the clock, Raiders took a two point shot and the win.
District continues to puzzle over proposed $10 million in cuts - Solving the school budget puzzle and balancing the 2010/11 numbers meant hacking $10 million from Lake Orion Community Schools' current spending, administrators said. School officials worked with three large-scale puzzle pieces, which, they said – if placed carefully – could do the trick: Cutting salaries and benefits, borrowing from fund balance and choosing options from 38 different analyses and studies.
Lake patrols to return for boating season - Worried riparian owners breathed a sigh of relief after learning sheriff patrol boats would arrive on Lake Orion as usual last summer. The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted 6-0 to approve about $20,000-$25,000 in funding for the patrols, which were axed from the Oakland County Sheriff's Office budget.
Student stats remain steady - In a school district of 7,824 students, 13 missing bodies is barely noticeable. That's why school officials say they're pleased with February's student head count. According to Superintendent of Administrative Services Jillynn Keppler, a decrease of 13 students – less than .2 percent of the student population – is a "better" number than the last two years.
District champs! - For the district title, Lady Dragons basketball team dug their talons into Stoney Creek, March 5, giving Lake Orion a 54 - 48 win.
A Dragon Cinderella story - Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Dragon basketball team had already surpassed expectations for the season. In the preseason rankings the Dragons were predicted to finish last in Oakland Activities Association (OAA) play. But as of March 9, they were ranked eighth in the entire association and tied for third in the OAA white division.
|Paul Couretas helps the team to their win. (click for larger version)|
Residents: Tap fund balance, slice administrator pay - Cheers and applause burst from the board room audience after Greg Cole, a high school teacher and parent in Lake Orion, said, "Maybe the goal is to not spend the money on kids. Maybe the goal is to keep it in a savings account. Those are my tax dollars, and I say that's wrong. I want that money spent on my kids. I don't want that money in the fund equity." Cole and others called for the district to tap deeper into fund balance and top administrators' salaries and benefits.
Breaking records, taking names - The Dragon swimmers team faced stiff competition at the boys' division one swimming and diving finals, in Holland, March 12 and 13, but ended their season in grand fashion with 10 of the 28-member squad participating. The team placed 14 out of 54 and set two school varsity records in the process.
Board-staff communication unethical? - School boardmembers, district staff and community members were puzzled over a school policy that impiled communication between boardmembers and staff members was unethical. District policies 3112 and 4112 stated "all official communications from staff members to the Board or its committees shall be submitted through the Superintendent," and vice versa, and "discussions between staff and Board members of personalities or personnel issues or grievances will be considered to be unethical conduct."
Township looks to long-term budget planning - Orion Township had money in the bank, and no plans to spend it. With a 100 percent-plus fund balance tucked safely under its belt, the Board of Trustees began work on long-term budget planning to: Make sure revenue projections are accurate; develop a capital improvement plan for township; and develop a capital improvement plan for items used daily, like ink and paper.
Sharing services? Local entities looking to explore options - The good, the bad and the ugly; it was all on the table in one version or another as officials from across the Orion area came together to discuss the potential for collaboration between the village, township, library and schools. Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb told those gathered at the catered event it was time for each of the entities to step outside the proverbial box in order to survive the harsh economy as a community.
A new puzzle: Board plans to revamp administration's budget - At the school board's March 24 meeting, the audience burst into applause and even cheers while boardmembers discussed putting all the budget puzzle pieces back in the box, shaking it up and tossing them back on the table. The group's finance committee left with instructions to completely revamp the administration's budget recommendation by being less conservative in their predictions and not cutting programming.
|Both teams took first place. (click for larger version)|
Three LOHS boys busted in burglary - Three Lake Orion High School teens were arrested Monday in connection with burglaries in Orion Township. The incidents occurred Friday, April 2 at two homes in the 800 block of Pine Tree. The trio allegedly entered a detached building at one residence and made off with $650 in cash.
LO test scores top county, state - For more than five years, Lake Orion students have trounced countywide and statewide Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) averages, and 2009 was no different as overall scores hovered around 93.5 percent.
Dragons sprint to first in season opener - In the Dragon's first match-up of the season, they faced LOHS alumnus Eric Lohr, first-year coach for Rochester Adams, March 31. Both boys and girls teams came out with the win.
Smoked out: Opinions mixed as Michigan's May 1 smoking ban approaches - Around the Orion area, reactions were mixed as smokers prepared for a last public puff. Cheryl Millenbach, general manager at Applebee's of Lake Orion, said she didn't anticipate much of a problem. Keith Aldridge, who manages his family's business at both Canterbury Castle, where the Clansman Pub is located, and Indianwood Golf and Country Club, said even as a nonsmoker—and one who doesn't like his children around secondhand smoke—he's not in favor of the law.
Woityra at the plate as new softball coach - When former Head Softball Coach Denny Davis hung up his hat last spring, his eight-year counterpart, Joe Woityra, stepped up to the plate. "It'll be hard," Woityra said of the team's first season without Davis after 37 years.
|Greg Smith enjoys a smoke while chatting with bartender Cory Renusch at CJ's Sandbar in downtown Lake Orion. Smoking in any public place became illegal May!. (click for larger version)|
'Good job with good benefits' - Lear Corp was expected to start hiring to fill more than 100 jobs in Orion Township by mid June. Integrated Manufacturing & Assembly is proposing to lease space from the vacant Ashley Capital building at 325
W. Silverbell Road, where it will produce automotive seat component sub-assemblies for the Chevy Aveo, Buick Verano and GM large trucks/SUV.
Boys' lacrosse on a winning streak - Numbers keep going up for the boys' varsity lacrosse team: Number of wins, number of quality players, number of years the budding varsity sport had been around – all higher than ever before. The team was undefeated so far in the season.
|Boys' lacrosse had a good run in the beginning of the season. (click for larger version)|
Orion man's killer gets life sentence - Brian Bailo, 31, died after he was shot during a broad-daylight robbery in the parking lot of a Pontiac take-out joint March 9, 2009. A jury found 19-year-old DeWayne Kawon Williams guilty of first-degree felony murder, armed robbery and two felony firearms charges. He was sentenced for life in prison without parole.
Superintendent contract proposal surprises board - school-board members were surprised when a proposal to cut district spending by 10 percent also included a suggestion to contract Superintendent Ken Gutman for an additional three years. The school board would wait until the next meeting to OK both decisions.
Gone: Promise of 'Good jobs with good benefits' slips from Orion's grasp - The Lear Corporation announced that plans to open a branch in Orion Township had been cancelled. The automotive supplier noted they were appreciative of the offer from the township, and that the 118 jobs planned for the branch would remain in Michigan -- just not in Orion.
Gotta 'do what we do' - The Lake Orion Girls' Soccer team maintained their "top team" status from 2009 by earning a record of 9-2 in 2010. Out of nine wins, eight were shutout victories. The team would eventually fall just shy of the division title, with a record of 12-3-2.
Coach hits positive note for golf season - Monty Gallaher, captain of the Lake Orion Boys' Golf team, reported that while the team was "playing ok, not poorly, but not great" they had managed to achieve their best tournament score to date -- 328 inTraverse City.
Boys' Baseball team wins five in a row - The varsity baseball team went on a five- game winning streak, beating, Stoney Creek, Troy Athens, Rochester, and Troy with at least a five-point lead in every game.
Wanted: One school boardmember - Bill Walters, school board president, announced he would be retiring in June due to his plans to leave the area. The board began posting interest for nominations to fill the spot.
Super tallies another positive evaluation - Compared to the school board's glowing evaluation the previous year, Superintendent Ken Gutman's performance declined in the board's estimation, but not by much. Gutman's performance was ranked at "meets expectations."
Lady Dragons go 3-2 in Lakeland Tourney - After winning two games by ten points only two days earlier, the Lake Orion Dragons softball team managed to win three of their five games at a Lakeland tournament. Though the team lost to Lakeland and Howell, they put up a good fight, losing both games by only one run. Their victories include wins against Royal Oak, Eisenhower, and Regina.
|The softball team hit some big wins with their new coach. (click for larger version)|
Schools look into advertising - When the district looked to chip $9 million from its $87 million budget, a chance to increase revenue instead of cutting expenditures presented itself in the form of advertising. The Alternative Revenue Development Company (ARD) presented the board with a plan to advertise on the district's website and on area school grounds generating between $44,000 and $103,000 annually. The board gave administrators the go-ahead to pursue a relationship with ARD.
Village budget didn't include layoffs, higher taxes - News of sweeping municipal layoffs, tax hikes, and cuts to services seemed distant during the May 24 meeting of the Lake Orion Village Council. Outside of a few part-time seasonal positions being cut and a reduction in hours for some government employees, the council's meeting didn't include any of those things. Some of the cost-cutting measures included Village Manager Paul Zelenak, Police Chief Jerry Narsh, and Department of Public Works Super Mike Olsen taking wage and benefit concessions.
School boardmember under investigation - Law enforcement officers looked into allegations that Lake Orion School Boardmember Tiffany Weber-Phillips did not live in the Lake Orion school district, making her ineligible to be a member of the board. Weber-Phillips claimed that her Park Island home was her family's "homestead," but neighbors said that the house had not been inhabited for some time. Anonymous sources claimed the school boardmember lived in Oxford instead. The school district performed an investigation and determined that her seat on the board was legitimate.
Picketers seek a three-year contract, too - Lake Orion school union members picketed outside the district administration building in anticipation of the vote to extend Superintendent Ken Gutman's contract by two years. The teachers sought their own three year contracts. Additional complaints centered on the concessions Gutman was supposed to make, including an eight percent wage cut which was based on the wrong number, thus making it a four percent deduction instead.
|LOHS teacher Sandy Pinchback and other staff picketed before the school boards' May 26 meeting. (click for larger version)|
Gone to pot - The Orion Township Planning Commission drafted an ordinance amendment which would essentially ban the possession of medical marijuana in the township. The ordinance would rely on federal guidelines for medical marijuana, superseding the 2008 passing of the statewide "Medical Marihuana Act," which allowed the sale of the drug for medical purposes.
Streetscape plans tangled in red tape - Getting a $500,000 Department of Transportation grant was taking longer than expected, reported the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority (DDA). DDA Executive Director Suzanne Perreault said the reason for the slow return from the federal government was the amount of "red tape" associated with federal dollars.
Girls' track takes eighth at states - Scoring 22 points, the Lake Orion Girl's Track team took eighth place at the Division 1 state competition, beating out 50 other teams. Jilian Linklater placed seventh in the high jump, Chiara Allen took second in the 100-meter dash, and Alexandria Johnson got second place in the 200-meter dash. The boys' track team meanwhile managed to achieve 27th place with seven points. Sean Bone placed sixth in the 1,600-meter run with a time 4:18:54, while Nathan Ziolko took fifth in the 3,200-meter race with a time of 9:18:94.
Kids and questions - A survey given to Lake Orion High School students revealed nearly 24 percent of students at the high school had used marijuana in the 30 days prior to answering the questions. The survey covered such topics as drug use, violence, sexual behavior, and family domain. Utilizing the students answers, the study found that the percentage of drug using students goes from 3.2 percent in the freshmen class, to 38.3 percent for juniors.
Girls' lacrosse net school record - The Lake Orion Lady Dragons finished their season with a record of 9-7-2, a first in the school's history. The new record came as a result of two thrilling games won narrowly, both with scores of 14 to 13. The record also marks the first MHSAA playoff victory for the girls' lacrosse team.
Board won't ban hunting in township - Residents hoping to ban hunting on 30 parcels around E. Silverbell Road had their hopes shot down when the Orion Township Board of Trustees failed to find in their favor. Township Trustee Neil Porter expressed concern that the petition from the concerned residents, signed by only six people, was imposing an opinion on the other 90 percent of people in that area. The core problem of the complainants was hunters using the area around E. Silverbell Road whether or not it was in season.
Are students 'warehoused' in Lake Orion? - Concerns over the way special education students are treated at Lake Orion High School came to a head when a number of special education student's parents complained about their children being bussed out earlier than the rest of the student body. After the parents voiced their concern to school staff, the special education bus now departs with the general education buses.
New grad joins LOHS class of 2010 - Helen Braidwood, 97, received an honorary high school diploma from Lake Orion Community Schools, which is something that she had "wanted all [her] life." Braidwood, who has lived in the Lake Orion for 72 years, attended Rock Valley School in Metamora Township through the eighth grade, but due to lack of transportation found that she could no longer attend classes.
Weaver new to the board, not the block - 12 year Lake Orion resident Kelly Weaver was elected to the school boardmember seat, left vacant by Bill Walters, by a vote of 5-1.