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Year in Review: 2010 continued

Lake Orion went to the dogs during Dog Days of August. (click for larger version)
January 05, 2011 - The Review continues its look back on 2010 with Year in Review, part II:

July 7

Here's the church, here's the steeple - The Lake Orion United Methodist Church, built in 1873, received renovations to its 80-foot high steeple. The renovation was part of an ongoing effort to maintain the historic building.

Optimists plan a return to Lake Orion - A chapter of the Optimist International group began forming in Lake Orion. The goal of the group was to "maintain an upbeat attitude and conduct positive community service projects aimed at assisting and empowering youth." The former branch of the club catered to the Oxford and Orion areas, but disbanded several years prior, but the new group will cater only to Orion Township youth.

July 14

Survey: LOHS teachers worried by modified block - LOHS administrators implemented a modified block scheduling program which introduced 45 minute "skinny classes" to the typical 90 minute classes. The change also removed around 13 teachers from payroll. With fewer teachers instructing the same number of students, some teachers worried about a drop in student achievement, but the administration disagreed and stood by the plan.

Residents debate texting ban merits - July 1, Michigan banned texting while driving, making the act a penalizing offense. Those caught would be ticketed $100 for the first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses

July 21

What's on the ballot? - The Aug. 3 primary elections where only two weeks away

With one week of play left in the regular season, the Lady Dragon volleyball team was 31-14-6 (Oct. 27). (click for larger version)
when Orion Township officials said they expected a relatively high turnout of voters. The positions up for grabs included U.S. House of Representatives seats, State Senate chairs, State House seats for District 46, County Commissioner for District 3, Judge of Probate Court, and Gubernatorial seats.

X-cellent! - Lauren Vellucci and Brandon Dosch, two Lake Orion High School graduates, had the opportunity to go to the X Games in Los Angeles, CA. Dosch had been a pro since 2007, and began BMX biking in 1999. Vellucci went pro in 2010 when she placed second in the Jomo Pro 2010 tournament in Missouri, and had been riding BMX for four years.

July 28

'It's not fair' - Atwater Commons homeowners began complaining about heavy traffic using their private drive, which is maintained through a portion of their rent. After a traffic count, the residents concluded that public use of the private road made for about 80 percent of the road's traffic.

Smashed - A rash of car larcenies prompted police at the Orion Township substation to again recommend hiding valuables out of sight while parking in order to "stop inviting [thieves] into your car."

Aug. 4

Home, car, business: break-ins continue around Orion - The car larcenies from July continued into August, and began to involve businesses and residencies. Police suggested that residents invest in audible alarms. Several Baldwin Road businesses, a Brown Road business, homes along Joslyn Road, Kern, Hopefield, and Indianwood Road, and 19 autos were burglarized.

Township hopes 'BIZ' will boost Brown Road - The Orion Township Planning Commission introduced the proposed "Brown Road Innovation Zone" (BIZ). The idea, said planners, is to make zoning regulations more attractive to potential developers by allowing "very flexible and very liberal" use of land that currently contains many vacant, for sale, or underutilized parcels along Brown Road and surrounding areas.

LO soccer players take skills to west coast - Derek Schrauben and Blake Skamiera, showed off their skills at the 2009-10 U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy U-17/18 National Championships in Carson California. Both Schrauben and Skamiera played for the Vardar U18 Soccer team, which eventually prevailed over the Crossfire Premier team of Washington State in the final game of the tournament.

Aug. 11

Precincts saw high voter turnout for the Nov. 2 general election. (click for larger version)
A family grieves: LOHS student, father drown in Lake Superior - Family tradition turned to tragedy when a Lake Orion High School student and his father drowned in Lake Superior. Eric Smith, 16, of Lake Orion, and his father, Douglas Smith, 50, of Oxford, were swimming in Grand Marais Harbor off Michigan's Upper Peninsula about 6 p.m. Aug. 5 when a riptide pulled them into deep water. Douglas Smith's daughter, Skye Giroux, was swimming alongside her father and brother when they were abruptly swept away.

Streetscape hold pushed to October - More delays and more red tape pushed the downtown's streetscape project to early October instead of the projected early August start date. The Downtown Development Authority of Lake Orion Village was expecting $500,000 from the Michigan Department of Transportation, among other funding sources for the $2.8 million project. The project would include repaving of the downtown and renovations for the Children's Park.

Administrator juggling act? - Sources reported at least 23 shifts in Lake Orion Community Schools administrator positions, including employees moving into new positions in the district or leaving the district since 2007. School Board President Mary Jo Burchart said the reason for the shifts was that when a position becomes available it creates a kind of "domino effect." Additionally, the state changed the way school employees can retire. However, one staff member said the shifts were more frequent than she had ever seen in her 20 years of employment.

Aug. 18

Police snag alleged pot seller - Village resident Joshua David Harvey, 29, was arrested Aug. 9 after Lake Orion police found a half pound of marijuana in his vehicle. Although Harvey originally provided fake identification, his true identity was determined by unique tattoos. Harvey had four outstanding warrants for his arrest.

Lake Orion inspires band's album - Frontier Ruckus, a Lansing-based band, based their first album, "The Orion Songbook," on the Orion area including Lake Orion, and Oakland Township. The band's leader Matthew Milia called the area inspiring, and said that he had a "magical relation" with the area. The album's sound was described as lyrical intensive folk music.

Aug. 25

Community stunned by stabbing, ruinous blaze - Orion Township resident Richard Darrin was credited with saving the life of neighbor Rosemary Rangi Aug. 18 when he saw smoke and approached from a wooded area behind the home where he found Rangi covered in soot and bleeding heavily. Rangi told emergency responders her husband, Daljit Singh Rangi, who died in the fire, attacked her, then set the home ablaze.

Orion ponders renewable energy proposal - Waste Management of Michigan and Eagle Valley Landfill proposed a plan to use the gas generated by the landfill to power an electric generator which would be built at Silverbell Road and Giddings. The facility would convert 1,200 square feet per minute of landfill gas to electricity, while before utilization of the gas, the resource was being disposed of. All motions to go ahead with the planning and construction of the facility were approved unanimously by the Orion Township planning commissioners.

Boy's tennis coach optimistic about 'rebuilding' season - Lake Orion Boy's Tennis Coach Eric Bracciano said that he and his team are setting up for a good season. Bracciano added that he was especially impressed with the maturity of the his team members. The tennis team ended their previous year with a 7-2 record.

Kathy McMinn is 2010's Citizen of the Year. (click for larger version)
Sept. 1

Medical marijuana debate reaches into Orion community - Marijuana plants large and small were on display at the Oakland County Sheriff's office, along with shotguns, handguns, hash oil, electronic scales and boxes, bags and jars of pot in varieties like Blueberry, Papaya, and Super Skunk. The items were confiscated when the Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) orchestrated a county-wide sting to address what Sheriff Michael Bouchard called "the abuse of Michigan's Medical Marijuana Exemption." Two homes in Orion Township were included in the raid.

Senior center stalled - Plans for a new senior citizen complex near Clarkston and Lapeer Road were largely dumped as Orion officials discussed building the center on a parcel near Orion Oaks Elementary. Cost estimates jumped from an original $1.3 million to about more than $3 million.

Dragons crush Oxford, 45-6 - In the first Lake Orion-Oxford football face-off since 1983, Dragons took back the "Double-O" trophy from Oxford, scorching the Wildcats with a 45-6 win as Coach Chris Bell claimed the 100th victory of his career.

Peterson resigns school board seat - Just two months after the Lake Orion Board of Education voted in Kelly Weaver to replace retiring Bill Walters, board Secretary Tina Peterson announced she was resigning.

Sept. 8

So long, Coach: Community bids farewell to a friend - Baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer. Over the last four decades, Sal Agro spent countless volunteer hours in the sun and the wind and the rain, pushing Lake Orion's young people to be the best they could be. On Thursday, Sept. 2, Agro, 67, was moving about in his hospital room, ready to put the hip surgery of two days prior behind him when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Sept. 15

'People don't want to believe something so awful' - Pastor William Bendert left the congregation at King of Kings reeling Sept. 9 when he was arrested by FBI agents and charged with attempting to solicit a minor child for sex. Bendert allegedly used the Internet in his church office to proposition agents he believed were mothers making their young daughters available for sex.

Drakos seated at school board table - Lake Orion resident Steve Drakos became the newest school board member. Drakos was among four who tried for the seat left empty by Tina Peterson.

'We are the champions...' Dragons brought home the state football title. (click for larger version)
Going up: Amphitheater project taking shape - Concerts in Civic Center Park were predicted to look a whole lot different this spring as construction of the long-planned amphitheater got underway. Building Director Tom Berger told the township board the job was more or less coming in on a budget of $150,000.

Senior center approved - The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to move ahead with construction of a new community senior center near Clarkston and Joslyn roads, despite yet another spike in estimated costs since the board last met. New figures came in at $3,714,000. Trustee John Steimel cast the sole dissenting vote. "Just like every project we work on the cost keeps going up," he said, noting he was in favor of a new senior center, but wanted to set a maximum cost and stick to it. "We don't seem to care. We can't seem to put a cap on it."

Schools to hold February election for bond issue - Lake Orion Community Schools held the first public discussion Sept. 15 about plans to pursue funding for new buses, better technology and building repairs through a bond issue proposal. At the meeting, Jillynn Keppler, assistant superintendent of administrative services said school funding doesn't cover big purchases and major repairs.

Sept. 29

Superintendent of schools could leave for Walled Lake - The Lake Orion Board of Education thought Superintendent Ken Gutman was committed to the district when it passed his three-year contract 4-2 in June, but just three months later the board learned Gutman was a finalist for the vacant superintendent position at Walled Lake Consolidated School District. He ultimately accepted the position; on Tuesday, Oct. 12, the Walled Lake Board of Education voted to appoint Gutman as their new superintendent.

Oct. 6

Crowning achievement - LOHS seniors Cameron Goodall and Sarah Mueller were voted LOHS' 2010 Homecoming King and Queen and were crowned during the game's halftime ceremony at Dragon Stadium.

Village residents now have curb-side recycling - A new recycling program came with the village's waste-hauling agreement with Richfield Equities, allowing residents to put recycling to the curb, free of charge, and participate in Rewards for Recycling.

October 13

GM: High hopes for new Buick Verano in Orion - Representatives from media outlets far and wide converged on the General Motors Orion Assembly to hear from automaker executives, politicians, and UAW leaders who spoke about plans to build the Buick Verano, scheduled for a 2012 launch, in Orion Township. The good news was tempered with reports of a new labor agreement stipulating that 60 percent of returning workers will make traditional UAW wages of around $29 an hour while 40 percent will be cut to about $15 an hour.

Bond proposal pushes forward - Putting the cart before the horse. The phrase was uttered by more than a few when audience members attended an informational bond meeting to find, as one parent said, that administrators had "already decided on what you want to go for, you've already decided the cost, you've already set your (committee) chairs."

Oct. 20

Coach: Last game was preparation for this Friday - The Dragon gridiron gang suffered their first and only loss of the season to Farmington Hills Harrison, 28-6. "We got beat by a very good football team," Coach Chris Bell, adding that the Dragons just couldn't take advantage of scoring opportunities, but now know what areas need improving.

School auditors: future funding looks bleak - The books are good; the financial outlook is bad. That was essentially the message from Lake Orion Schools' Plante Moran audit, which showed 2010 district expenditures exceeded revenues by just under $5 million, with the district using fund balance to make up the difference.

Oct. 27

Neighbors need a ride: NOTA considers expansion Orion - Township officials were exercising caution and looking closely at details after representatives from Independence Township inquired about hitching a ride for their seniors with the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA). Currently, NOTA provides free rides to senior citizens, disabled individuals and welfare-to-work program participants living in Orion, Oxford, and Addison.

Township hit by health-care hike - Thirty-six percent. A million dollars over the next two years. Those were the numbers supplied to the Orion Township Board of Trustees when Supervisor Matthew Gibb disclosed news of 2011 health plan rates announced by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Spikers seek strong end to season - With just one more week of play left in the regular season, the Lady Dragon volleyball team was 31-14-6, and looking to carry their strong tournament play through the next week. "We've played really well in our tournaments," said Coach Bob Howey, noting the team won their last league match, but stumbled a little in prior matches.

Dragons blow house down on Wolves - Tables turned on the big, bad Wolves when Clarkston's house came toppling down Oct. 22. Lake Orion's varsity football team took the win and the Oakland Activities Association Red Division title from Clarkston, 28-7.

Nov. 3

Business plans transformation for 'eyesore of the community' - Milosch's Palace Chrysler Jeep Dodge discussed plans to transform an environmentally polluted community eyesore into a state-of-the-art body shop and bring 50-80 new jobs to Orion Township in the not-too-distant future. Owner Brian Milosch told the township board his plans for the 64,242-square-foot former Royal Oak Boring building, located at 4800 Lapeer Road.

Voter voices resonate from polls - Bill and Donna Smith of Lake Orion arrived at Lake Orion United Methodist Church - Precinct 12 - ready to vote on Nov. 2. Orion saw its highest voter turnout, somewhere between 60-70 percent, in precincts 6 and 14 as voters handed local republicans a solid victory. Oakland County Board of Commissioners' incumbent Mike Gingell reclaimed the 3rd District seat, Jim Marleau, Lake Orion, won the State Senate, 12th District seat by a comfortable margin and Bradford Jacobsen, Oxford, took a decisive victory in the race to fill Jim Marleau's shoes as State Representative, 46th District,

LO runners lace up for states - Both Lake Orion cross country teams prepared to lace up for the state finals at Michigan International Speedway in the week ahead after the girls competed in the MHSAA Regional Meet and took second place Oct. 30. The boys' team will also head to the speedway after their second place finish at regionals.

School's $50k technology program raises questions - Where's the plan? Where's the preparation? Where's the communication? That's what School Board member Jim Weidman wanted to know about a $50,000 technology pilot for seventh graders at Waldon Middle School. Weidman began asking questions about it at the board level after learning of the program for the first time at Waldon's curriculum night in September.

Nov. 10

Lake Orion down 40 students - With the help of two outside consulting firms, Lake Orion predicted having 40 fewer students this year and that's exactly what they got. According to Jillynn Keppler, acting superintendent, the district was pleased with the student population dropping so little since Lake Orion is one of the last districts with closed enrollment. "Reducing 40 out of 7,800 students is a very low percentage," she said. "I think that's because people still want to be in our community." Students are counted twice every year, once in the fall and once in the spring. State funding is based on a blend of those two numbers. Last year, the blended count was 7,838. This year's count is 7,798.

Nov. 17

A fix for Scripps: Township makes plans to improve traffic flow around Lake Orion High School - Now that Tri-Party funds were almost assuredly coming in 2011, Orion Township was ready to get the show on the road. Scripps Road, that is. The board of trustees approved funding for the initial phase of a project aimed at alleviating long waits, bottlenecking and frustration caused by all the traffic coming in and out of Lake Orion High School and Scripps Middle School every day.

School officials lay plans for bond money - Campaigning for the school district's bond election will begin this week while dollar signs and priorities are still being worked out. So far, the $25.5 million in proposed money is slated for safety/security ($2.3 million), updated technology ($14.9 million), new buses ($3.1 million), building refurbishing ($2.3 million) and miscellaneous fees/expenses ($2.9 million).

Former Wildcat named interim superintendent - Marion Ginopolis, a former superintendent in Oxford, beat out four other candidates for the Lake Orion Community Schools' interim superintendent position. She'll take on the position while the board continues to search for a permanent replacement for Ken Gutman.

Nov. 24

McMinn named 'Citizen of the Year' - The Orion Area Parade Group, in partnership with The Lake Orion Review, announced its selection of Kathy McMinn as 2010 'Citizen of the Year.' The title earned McMinn the honor of serving as Grand Marshal of the annual Holiday Lighted Parade in downtown Lake Orion. She was also to be honored by the Parade Group at the Holly Jolly Folly, and profiled in the Review.

Dec. 1

Team brings first-ever title home from Ford Field - It wasn't for the team or for the high school. It wasn't even for Lake Orion Community Schools. When the clock ticked down and the Dragons officially became the best football team in the state, it was a win for Lake Orion, said Head Coach Chris Bell. "We're so excited to bring the championship back to Lake Orion. It's a very humbling experience to see the support and the enthusiasm of the community. We can't thank people enough. The players, the coaches - we understand how special this is because of our community," Bell said. And with the power of a community behind them, the Dragons took control of the Division 1 state championship game at Ford Field right from kickoff and never looked back.

Dec. 8

Parade lights up the night - Some 70 entries illuminated the parade route through downtown Lake Orion on Saturday, Dec. 4. Winners of this year's float contest included: Best Commercial Business: Upland Hills Farms; Best Non Profit Organization: 1000 Conversations about Mental Health in Lake Orion; Best Theme Depiction: Golling Buick GMC; Most Uniquely Illuminated: Finch's Custom Cycles; People's Choice: Orion Township Library

Dec. 15

A winter wallop - The community struggled with the blowing snow, sub-zero wind chills, and icy roads in the aftermath of a fierce winter storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow, on Lake Orion and the surrounding area Dec. 12 and 13.

District: Changes improve bond payback options - Change is good, especially when it means a lower-than-anticipated interest rate and an earlier payoff date. That was part of the message from Lake Orion Community School administrators who continue to define - and refine - details of the $25 million school bond issue meant to fund a host of district-wide improvements.

Dec. 22

'We want to be more transparent' - The Lake Orion DDA presented the village council with an overview of efforts aimed at improving downtown Lake Orion. Lake Orion DDA Executive Director, Suzanne Perreault, detailed to the council what the DDA had done, what it was doing, what it was planning, and how they were solving some of the DDA's current problems.

Townships look to consolidate police operations - While not yet finalized or approved by either board, the between Orion and Oxford townships called for shutting down the Oxford Township substation and moving the 13 deputies currently based there to the Orion substation on Joslyn Road. For the most part, Orion's deputies will still patrol and respond to calls in Orion, and Oxford's deputies will do likewise in Oxford, but significant savings for both communities will come from consolidation, officials said.

Township gives final approval to police cuts - The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to cut the number of Oakland County Sheriff's deputies currently assigned to the township substation. One of two Lake Orion Community Schools' police liaisons will be among three officers to hit the bricks come Jan. 1.

Dec. 29

Schools begin superintendent search - Marion Ginopolis doesn't have any place to be July 1. The news came as a relief to Lake Orion Community Schools' Board of Education, whose members recently took the first steps toward finding a permanent replacement for former Superintendent Ken Gutman. Although Ginopolis' contract as the district's interim superintendent expires June 30, it can be extended. Ginopolis told the board she's happy to stay on until an appropriate candidate is identified and hired.

Budget approved, township to 'spend down' huge fund balance - Officials in Orion Township have calculated, ironed out, and approved their 2011 budget. At the Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Dec. 20, the proposed budget passed with a vote of 6-0. The projected 2011 year-end general fund for expenditures total $4,632,952, down from 2010's projected year-end $4,978,014. Similar to last year, the township will be operating with a general fund balance of 106 percent, but Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb said the township is trying to whittle that number down.

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