Source: Sherman Publications

Year in Review-2013

by David Fleet

December 25, 2013


Ice fisherman drowns

Groveland Twp.- On Jan. 1, Oakland County Sheriff’s divers recovered the body of a 63-year-old ice fisherman from Rose Township in approximately 12 feet of water in Hartwig Lake.

Donald Earl Thorpe drowned after he went through about an inch of ice approximately 200 feet from shore.

Township Fire Chief Steve McGee said Thorpe headed out on the ice of the small lake located about a quarter of a mile south of Groveland Road during the morning hours of Dec. 31. When he did not return home about 5 p.m., Ken Thorpe, the brother of the victim, ventured out on the ice of Hartwig Lake. He fell through as well, but was wearing a flotation device and managed to get out of the water.

The Atlas Township Fire Department also assisted in the recovery effort, which had to be called off in the late evening hours of Dec. 31 due to weather conditions. Divers located Donald Thorpe’s body the next day under the ice.

According to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office a minimum of five inches of ice is needed for general use. Do not go out on the ice alone.

Firefighters reject union

Brandon Twp.- Township firefighters voted against becoming a union department.

All ten full-time firefighters voted in the election, with seven voting no on joining the International Association of Firefighters and three voting yes.

“Obviously with the results of the election, the majority of the firefighters feel we have enough say in our future and we hope the township continues to support the fire department,” said BFD Sgt./Medic Billy Starr.

The January election was held after at least three firefighters approached Terry Chesney, secretary-treasurer for the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, expressing an interest in learning more about the IAFF and the process to join.

Currently, wages and benefits for firefighters, like other township employees, are determined by the township board. There have been several changes to healthcare benefits for both current township employees, as well as retirees, in recent years, as the township board seeks ways to cut costs.

Local beats cancer, runs marathon

Danell Duff had to beat the flu, 80-degree weather, exhaustion, and pain in order to arrive at the finish line of the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon.

If she had not already experienced and won a bigger battle, she may not have attempted the 26.2 mile race, held on Jan. 13 in Orlando, Fla., at all.

“If I had not gone through cancer, I would have pulled out of the run,” said Duff, a Groveland Township resident. “I woke up sick the Wednesday before the race with the flu and when I got down there—with the forecasted temps being so high—I didn’t want to be one of those people who die from running a marathon. That’s when I changed my concept of running it and just went out to have fun.”

Duff’s final time was 6:44, nearly two hours slower than her 2008 Detroit Marathon finish time of 4:46, but while she was disappointed that her time wasn’t what it could have been had conditions been perfect, she is taking it in stride.

“The one thing about surviving cancer is that now the experience is better than the perceived outcome,” she said. “I just had my good 2-year scan so I wanted to celebrate that. Just finishing was a great accomplishment. Two years ago I was like, ‘Will I ever be able to do another one?’ So many people do cancer research fundraising through the marathon and it was not unusual to see Team in Training people running and people with pictures of loved ones that had died and I just thought, ‘I’m here!’ It was great to just be able to finish it and not having to quit. Even if it was slower than I hoped, it was worth it.”

Goodrich privatizes custodial services

Goodrich-The school board voted 6-1 January 28 to terminate the employment of two custodians in a cost savings measure. Trustee Tim Zirnhelt voted no.

The district had only two full-time custodians employed while contracting with Flint-based At Your Service for the remainder of the school buildings.

The decision was expected to save the district about $53,000 per year and would totally privatize custodial services for the four district school buildings.

“This is very distasteful,” said Jeff Gardner, board vice-president. “But we have to put the kids first—our fund balance is at 10 percent right now and we cannot see that changing anytime soon. We are in the education business, that’s why we are here. We can blame the state if we want.”

Betty Butterworth, president of Goodrich Custodians, Maintenance, Para-Pros and Transportation (CMPT), said the custodians had worked for the district for about 24 years and about 16 years respectively.

Exposure death in Brandon

According to Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reports, police responded at about 10:06 a.m., Jan. 31 to a residence in the 3900 block of Oakwood Road after the homeowner discovered a deceased woman near his front porch.

The temperature was 23 degrees and it was snowing at the time of arrival of deputies and the woman was dressed in pajama bottoms and a light cotton shirt. Her jacket was found nearby, as well as her purse and walking cane.

The woman had apparently walked over to the home from the residence next door, where she lived with her son. At around the same time the neighbor found her, the woman’s son discovered his mother was not in her bedroom. An autopsy confirmed the 83-year-old woman died from exposure. Video surveillance from the neighbor’s home security cameras show the woman sitting down on his porch steps around 6:30 a.m.

The woman had been living with her son for two years and had been diagnosed with dementia, but other than some trouble walking was in good physical health. Her son told police she normally awakened between 9 and 10 a.m. and had never wandered from the home before.


State plans to purchase acres from Camp Tamarack

Named for Tamarack Hills Farms and purchased in 1950 by the United Jewish Charities, Camp Tamarack incorporates more than 1,400 acres of township wilderness near Perryville Road and attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year.

The township camp, which turned 60-years-old in 2012, may soon be just a little smaller.

Representatives of the United Jewish Foundation and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources gathered on Feb. 11 during the township board of trustees meeting to discuss selling 290 acres of the camp.

“Part of the reason the (Grange Hall Road) property was purchased was to create a buffer near the camp,” said Steve Engel, Fresh Air Society-Tamarack Camps executive director. “In offering the property to the state it will remain unchanged and natural. The funds will be used to improve the infrastructure of the camp.”

Funding for the sale will come from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to provide a source of money for the public acquisition of lands for resource protection and public outdoor recreation. Funding was derived from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned mineral rights.

The amount offered for the property was not discussed.

The MNRTF has made a recommendation to purchase the property. During the spring of 2014 the Michigan Legislature will approve the transaction.


Bill Wright dies

Leslie L. “Bill” Wright, Jr. of Ortonville died March 6.

He was 91.

Wright served as Brandon Township supervisor from 1972 to 1984 and also served many years as a township trustee and as a township zoning board enforcement officer until he was 88-years-old.

Jeannie McCreery, who served as Brandon Township Clerk from 2000 to 2012 remembered Bill as the community historian.

“If you ever had any questions regarding the history of the community just ask Bill,” said McCreery. “He loved this township and especially loved all the cemeteries— he knew so much about them. He and his wife Edith, who passed away in 2003, were an amazing love story. He was just lost without her. Bill was a dedicated public servant from school board member to supervisor to code enforcer—I doubt there was a year he was not on some board and working for this community. He will be missed.”

Groveland approves pay hikes, hefty fund balance

Groveland Twp.- On Feb. 11, by a 5-0 vote, the township board of trustees OK’d the 2013-2014 budget.

Township officials report about $200,000 in surplus revenue with about $2 million in the infrastructure fund, just over 200 percent based on a general budget of $987,520 and building fund of $26,000. The infrastructure fund is earmarked for projects such as road paving and emergency reserves. The budget included a 5 percent increase in pay for elected and office staff, full and part-time.

Other features of the budget included using some of the infrastructure fund on a 2014 paving of about one mile of Oak Hill Road between Kier Road and Dixie Highway. The $1.8 million project will be paid for with 80 percent federal funding and shared dollars from Springfield Township.

“Many projects we need to save up for,” said Township Supervisor Bob DePalma. “Thus we have a hefty fund balance. It’s just being fiscally responsible and if the funding is needed for the development of the 197 acres of township property located north of Grange Hall Road, east of I-75 and west of Dixie Highway, then we have it.”

DePalma added that if a water treatment plant or other infrastructure improvements are necessary to attract a prospective buyer for the development, then funding is available.

Back to back

East Lansing-The 2013 Goodrich girls basketball season ended the same way as the 2012 campaign concluded.

With a state championship.

The Goodrich Lady Martians successfully defended their Class B state title on March 16, defeating Flint Powers Catholic Chargers 51-34 at the Jack Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. Martian Tania Davis had 20 points and Tyler Gleason tossed in 14 with 11 rebounds in the victory.

“This year’s title feels different than last year,” said Goodrich Head Coach Jason Gray. “It’s like having two kids—you just love them both, but differently.”

“We were very well prepared for the run at the state championship,” he said. “I felt like we were the better team and we played like it. Powers lost confidence while we gained confidence. We had a decent lead, 28-6 going into halftime—I told the girls we still have work to do.”

The 2012-13 team were talented even with some setbacks, added Gray.

“When we lost players to injuries (Taylor Gleason and Tania Davis) other girls had the opportunity to step up and they did. They did the things during the games they should and needed to do. That was the key to this season. We’ve played good defense all year long, we kept a hand in the face of the opposition and we rebounded very well.”

BMS goes to Washington

Walking up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on March 15 was a huge reality check for Katy O’Neill.

“It all hit me then,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is real, this is happening.’”

What was happening for her and 37 other Brandon Middle School eighth grade students, was a hands-on social studies lesson, led by BMS teachers Steve Hendershott and Jason Sheldon.

Hendershott proposed the Washington, D.C. trip to the Brandon School Board last April and received approval. BMS students have not had a teacher-organized trip to the capital since 1995. BMS teacher Roger Brundage previously led student trips to D.C. in the summer, but the trips ended after he retired.

“I did this as a kid and I think it’s a great trip to reinforce our curriculum and show why our country is so great,” said Hendershott of his motivation to renew the annual trip.

All 250 eighth grade students were invited, but the $1,000 cost was each individual’s responsibility. The tour was provided by World Strides, which offered fundraising ideas for students and parents, as well as some scholarships. The students left BMS March 13 and arrived back in town early March 18.

Dog rescued from lake

Atlas Twp.- Firefighters and a neighbor saved Mark Trowbridge’s dog, a 12-year-old Brittany spaniel named Riley, from the icy waters of Lake Shinanguag on March 24.

“We are not sure why he was out on the lake, maybe chasing geese or just confused, we did not see Riley out on the ice,” said Trowbridge. “The Fullers, neighbors who also live on the lake, noticed an animal struggling in the water.”

Firefighters arrived at the lake with ice rescue suits and saw the dog splashing around about 75 feet off shore. The team crawled out on the ice and were able to pull the dog onto firm ice and wrap him in a blanket. His owners were notified from dog tag information.

“The Fullers called 9-1-1 and kept Riley’s hopes for help alive. The fire department’s response under the direction of Chief Fred Forys was very quick, effective and professional. Thank you for saving the life of our family member, Riley. I can’t imagine he would have lasted much longer in that water.”


On March 2, 1963 the Goodrich Lions Club established their charter during a ceremony at the high school.

In April, the Goodrich Lions Club celebrated 50 years of service to the community at the Goodrich United Methodist Church, 8071 S. State Road.

“Community work— that’s what Lions are all about,” said Bennett. “We participate in various Lions International projects including Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester and Michigan Eye Bank. Locally, we now have about 25 members and over the past years have focused on a host of projects and activities right here in Goodrich.”

In addition to monthly meetings, the Goodrich Lions Club has completed numerous local projects including

Christmas tree sales. For more than 40 years the club has sold Christmas trees from their building on M-15.

Wheelock and Watkins drain OK’d by board

Goodrich-In a special meeting on April 9 at the village offices, a board of determination made up of Richfield Township Supervisor Joseph Madore, Mundy Township Supervisor David Guigear and Argentine Township Supervisor Robert Cole voted 3-0 to move forward with a Wheelock and Watkins drain project.

The Wheelock and Watkins drain is an agricultural drain, built in 1897. Over the past century the drain, which encom

passes a large section of the village, has been modified. In 1996 the village administration filed a resolution with the county to update and redirect the drain; however, the project never moved forward due to a lack of easements received by the county.

Since then several residents and businesses within the drainage area have reported flooding in their homes. The flooding issue drew the attention of the community following a July 28, 2011 rainstorm that dumped several inches on the village and surrounding area.

Brandon lay-offs

The lay-offs of two key administrative school district staff members were approved by the Board of Education during their April 15 meeting.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon called the lay-offs of Carole Beverwyk, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and accountability, and Arden Becker, executive director of operations, aquatic center and food services, “major.”

“These are pretty difficult positions to reduce,” McMahon said

The board voted 5-2 in favor of approving the reduction of the assistant superintendent position. Treasurer Greg Allar and President Kevin McClellan voted no. The move will save the district about $150,000 per year.

As assistant superintendent, Beverwyk’s responsibilities included overseeing curriculum, school improvements, test assessments, state and federal program grants, and personnel. Those responsibilities will now be carried primarily by McMahon and the various school principals.

“Carole’s work will be almost impossible to absorb by the rest of us… but we have to have a balanced budget,” said McMahon, who was curriculum director in the district prior to becoming superintendent.

The board also voted 5-2 to reduce Becker’s position of executive director of operations, aquatic center and food services. Greg Allar and John Chartier voted no. This reduction will save the district $100,000 annually.

Locals near Boston chaos

Casey Hartman was at work in Boston the afternoon of April 15 when she heard, and felt, the first explosion.

The personal stylist and 1996 Brandon High School graduate had no time to even begin to comprehend what had happened before a second explosion rocked the building.

”I thought maybe they had fired a cannon. In Boston, I have seen cannons fired at least 10 times for special occasions,” said Hartman, who has a degree in fine arts from Oakland University and moved to Boston in the fall of 2007 to work in the fashion industry. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to worry until there is something to worry about.’”

As it turned out, there was plenty to worry about. While a cannon firing might not have been so extraordinary on what was Marathon Monday and Patriots Day,a holiday in the state of Massachusetts, there was no cannon fired. The explosions were bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon by terrorist brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The bombs ultimately killed three people, wounded nearly 200 more, and stopped one of the world’s most famous races.

Also in the Boston Marathon was Bill Snyder, an educator for 45 years and Brandon Middle School principal for 15 years prior to his retirement in 2012.

On April 15, Snyder, 69, was about five miles away when two explosions ripped through the finish line on the 26.2 mile trek of the Boston Marathon. He was not injured.

Goodrich:19 teachers pink slipped, Schools of Choice ramped up

More than 100 residents, staff, and administrators packed the school board room as lay-off notices were issued to 19 teachers, Schools of Choice was reinstated for grades seven through 12 and vows were made to continue exploring privatizing of sectors of the services needed to operate the district.

The proposed cuts of more than $900,000 were necessary, said school officials, to stop a draining of the district’s fund equity and keep the district on solid financial footing. Since 2007 the district has dipped into more than $2 million in fund equity, including more than $400,000 in the current budget. A combination of a lack of state funding, coupled with a decline in enrollment while operating costs increase, has prompted the financial issues in the district.

The board also voted 5-2 to undo a 2012 decsion that closed Schools of Choice from 7-12 grades and had limited enrollment to kindergarten through sixth grades due to large class sizes in the high school. Niki Wiederman, secretary, and Ryan Starski, trustee, voted no. The Schools of Choice students currently comprise about 13 percent of the district’s enrollment, boosting the district’s coffers by about $2 million each year.


Voters OK Atlas Township Police Millage

On May 4, Atlas Township voters approved 2.1 mills to fund police coverage for the community.

The final tally was 576 yes to 382 no.

About 16 percent of township voters turned out, less than anticipated, said Tere Onica, township clerk.

“I’m not surprised at the support for the millage,” she said. “In my years here I’ve never seen township voters turn down funding for police or fire. They have very strong support here in the community.”

The four year millage will fund a $565,000 contract, currently with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department which expires Dec. 31. A township taxpayer with a $100,000 home would pay about $105 per year. The approved millage replaces the 1 mill levy along with $50 for improved lots and $25 for unimproved lots that expired last year.

Fact finder backs teacher wage cuts

A state-appointed fact finder recommended that teachers in the Brandon School District accept a 7.5 percent wage reduction for two years.

Ralph Maccarone, appointed by the Michigan Employment Relations Committee as a neutral party to help in contract negotiations between the Brandon Education Association and school district, issued on May 5 an 18-page report culminating in his recommendation that the Brandon Education Association accept the district’s wage reduction proposal.

“Given everything before me, and struggling with the issue of an argument on one side, of an insurmountable lack of funds to operate on a balanced budget over the foreseeable future; and on the other side, to hear the argument of excessive loss of income and reduction of residual lifetime retirement payments; I am convinced that both parties have made an almost equal case,” wrote Maccarone in his conclusion.

“Considering that the first objective of a school district is to provide a safe and quality education, an objective clearly sought by both parties, I choose to err on the side of continued local control. My recommendation in this matter is that the association accepts the district’s proposal to preserve the district’s ability for self-determination, with unpaid furlough days as can be agreed upon to achieve the district’s requested savings.”

Brandon deputies honored with 16 awards

Deputies here were recognized with 16 awards for their exceptional work, particularly in two extraordinary cases in the township.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office released a list of 2013 OCSO Awards recipients, and officers from the Brandon substation were well-represented.

“We have 11-and-a-half deputies (one deputy is shared with Independence Township) in this station and we received 16 commendations from the sheriff,” said Sgt. Pete Burkett. “I am very proud to be commander of such dedicated and professional police officers and the citizens of Brandon should be, too.”

Oxford Bank terminates merger

Due to improved operating results for the first quarter of 2013 and delays in a proposed merger to the Farmington Hills-based Level One Bank, the company’s board of directors, after consultation with its legal counsel and financial advisor, terminated the merger agreement on May 14.

Locally, there are two branches of Oxford Bank, in Goodrich, 8125 State Road and in Ortonville, 345 Ortonville Road.

“Oxford Bank has made a lot of progress,” said James Bess, president and CEO of Oxford Bank. “We are at a juncture. Last year it was a challenge every day to reduce the chances of the bank failing—at one time we needed $30 million for operations to continue, now that number is about $5 million. We have come a long ways.”

In November 2012, a majority of Oxford Bank shareholders voted to sell all 1,156,690 of the institution’s outstanding shares to Level One for $3 each. In essence, Level One is purchasing Oxford Bank and all of its assets for $3.47 million.

Under the terms of the company’s agreement with Level One, either party had a right to terminate the contract, without penalty, if the transaction was not closed before May 13, said Bess.

Brandon Virtual School a reality for 2013-14 school year

School board members, as well as Superintendent Lorrie McMahon, supported a plan to offer online classes, and beginning in the fall, Brandon High School students became eligible to select online courses to take along with the traditional class offerings.

While online classes do not have all the answers and are not for everyone, Brian Moore said offering them can draw students to the district and increase revenue. He and Lott began researching online classes and four factors led them to decide they should be offered at Brandon: changes in state requirements; development of courses; investment in Brandon technology; and a public appetite for online offerings.

Brandon Virtual School uses three different components as part of the online strategy.

Year in Review 2013 will continue with June through December covered in next week’s edition of The Citizen.