A look back at Downriver 2011: July through December

Photo by James Mitchell

Taylor firefighters and supporters marched outside city hall to protest layoffs that went into effect July 1. The city council approved a resolution to restore six firefighter and paramedic positions the same week.

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A request for a four-day extension for Allen Park’s budget was denied by the state. State law required the budget be complete by July 1, but the deadline did not leave the city with 10 days to post the budget prior to its adoption, as required by its charter.

Wyandotte’s mayor-launched Citizens Advisory Committee proposed a levy of 3 mills to counter an estimated $1.85 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

In Allen Park, seven police employees were among 22 planned layoffs in the city’s $21 million budget, while Wyandotte contemplated laying off three police employees and two firefighters.

A Lincoln Park woman and her boyfriend were charged with involuntary manslaughter for the July 2010 death of the woman’s 5-year-old son. Debralynn C. Holland and Earl Dwayne Adkins were arraigned in Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court on charges related to the mauling death of Kyle Holland, who was killed by Adkins’ dog, believed to be a wolf-dog hybrid. Two days of preliminary examinations were scheduled for September to hear testimony.

Seven candidates applied for the position of Treasurer in the city of Taylor following the June resignation of Wayne Avery. Among the candidates seeking the appointment was Councilwoman Jacklyn Molner, raising questions regarding retirement and pension benefits for elected officials.

The Taylor Fire Department welcomed back to duty six firefighters who were among 48 city workers laid off in June. The City Council approved a budget amendment restoring the positions.

Joseph Alan Bigelow was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the February murder of 17-year-old Brittany Burrell in a Lincoln Park parking lot. Bigelow faced additional charges for a second homicide committed one week before Burrell’s murder.

An October jury trial was scheduled for Tyress Thearndos Mathews, accused of murdering Taylor Police Cpl. Matthew Edwards in July 2010. Edwards was the first Taylor officer to have been killed in the line of duty.

An agreement between the city and the Taylor Police Officers Labor Association was approved by the City Council which confirmed the recall of nine laid-off officers, and allowed police staff with 15 or more years to retire and collect pensions. The agreement was said to allow the city to retain as many of the department’s nearly 70 officers as possible.

Former Southgate police officer Emmanuel Paravas was bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court after a lengthy preliminary examination. Paravas was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly raping a woman he met while responding to a domestic disturbance call. The woman, a 41-year-old entertainer, testified that she’d spent much of the day drinking and arguing with her husband.

A September trial date was set for the April murder of Adrian Dsehaun Bell in a Lincoln Park parking lot. Shannon Maurice Henderson stood accused of first-degree murder and other felonies.

Voters struck down a proposed Headlee override in Allen Park’s primary election, the $1.8 million proceeds of which were included in the city’s budget.

Wyandotte City Council revoted on a millage – 1.75 mills instead of the original 3 mills – after the Attorney General denied the original vote, as it did not meet their definition of a three-fifths majority vote.

In Allen Park, shakeups continued with the retirement of Police Chief Dean Tamsen and the resignation of his brother, City Administrator David Tamsen.

Wyandotte filmmaker Scott Galeski started production on his first feature-length film, “Pookerland” starring Detroit rock icon Mitch Ryder.

Wyandotte Municipal Services announced plans to join 12 other communities in buying natural gas from a nonprofit energy distribution project in Fremont, Ohio.

An audit of Allen Park’s finances by Plante & Moran found the city was on track to lose $350,000 a month unless action was taken immediately.

About 150 Lincoln Park homes sustained damage caused by sewage flooding into basements, and homeowners filed claims with the city seeking reimbursement. Late July featured intense rains over several days and the city’s water pumping station at Emmons Street was found to have a faulty sensor trigger.

More than 5,300 petition signatures seeking to recall Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand were submitted to the Wayne County Clerk’s director of election. Confirmed signatures of at least 4,800 qualified residents required approval for the question to be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Petition organizers cited the April layoffs of Taylor police officers as the principal reason for the recall, although eight of the nine officers returned to duty.

A second round of summer rains left some Lincoln Park residents wrestling with basements flooded with sewage. Problems from a backed-up system were not as widespread as the previous round of flooding, and 20 additional claims were filed with the city.

The Trenton Public Schools Board of Education voted to restore general education bus service for the 2011-12 school year. Superintendent Larry Leapley said that news of delinquent taxes owed the district from the Wayne County Tax Assessor allowed the reinstatement of school bus service for the year.

The shooting of a stray dog in Taylor by a 70-year-old man in a wheelchair was determined to be an act of self defense by police. Police were called to Leroy Street after neighbors reported the shooting of what was believed to be a pit bull terrier. Witnesses told varying stories, some of which included the dog lunging at the wheelchair-bound man’s leg and the man shoot the animal to protect children who were playing in the street. Others said the shooting was unnecessary and put others at risk.

The Lincoln Park City Council began issuing checks to cover damage from flooded basements, although Mayor Frank Vaslo maintained that the city was not at fault during a second round of flooding. More than 150 homeowners filed claims and compensation checks averaging $4,000 were issued.

For the second time of the summer, six Taylor firefighters were laid off as the city struggled with a deficit budget. The reduction left the department with 36 firefighter/paramedics, a roster that fire officials said was incapable of meeting contractual staffing requirements.

The Taylor City Council voted to appoint Councilwoman Jacklyn Molner as the new treasurer, a decision vetoed less than a week later by Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand. The position of treasurer is an elected office, and the city charter prohibits an official from holding two elected positions. Molner’s acceptance, Lamarand said, was premature as she had not resigned from City Council.

Allen Park city councilors announced two millages for the November general election. A 3.5 mill proposal was to benefit the Police and Fire departments while a second, set to fluctuate but to bring in about $1.5 million per year to offset the city’s subsidy to its former studio property. The same month, it extended its contract with financial management firm Plante & Moran from three to five days a week to complete outstanding portions of its 2011-12 budget, adopted July 1.

Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand officially challenged a recall petition as approved by Wayne County Elections officials. Lamarand said he believed that 700 of the 4,352 submitted names were ineligible.

Preliminary examinations began in Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court for charges in the July 2010 dog-mauling death of a 5-year-old boy. Forensic and police experts testified that the boy suffered more than 80 puncture wounds and more than 250 abrasions during the attack from an animal believed to be a wolf-dog hybrid. The boy’s mother, Debralynn Holland, and her boyfriend, Earl Dwayne Adkins, faced charges including manslaughter.

Joseph Alan Bigelow was found guilty of a second Lincoln Park murder, the Feb. 4 shooting of Dwight Osborn. A week later, Bigelow killed 17-year-old Brittany Burrell, for which he was sentenced in July to life in prison.

Allen Park City Administrator John Zech and Plante & Moran representative Carl Johnson laid out the “Plan B” for the cash-strapped city, if two proposed milages did not pass.

The plan included cutting 10 firefighters, 18 police department positions, ambulance services, the city’s community center and its recreation department to counter the $4.7 million budget deficit for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year.

The amended budget, which was to be revised if either of the millages passed, was adopted later that month.

A 2.75-acre portion of the city’s failed studio property was sold to Birmingham-based Elia Group LLC for development of a retail complex.

Wyandotte Board of Education trustees voted to extend kindergarten from full to half days. The move came after the state legislature voted to stop giving full-day status to half-day programs, which could mean a loss of more than $3,000 per pupil in funding for schools that did not comply.

The struggling Taylor Fire Department announced that two of the city’s three fire stations would close due to budget restrictions. The department closed its north and south stations and moved all operations to the central station on Goddard Road.

Lincoln Park officials debated whether or not to replace City Manager Steve Duchane, who resigned to take a job in another city. Some, including Mayor Frank Vaslo, said that the city needed a full-time administrator, while others said that the position should be reconsidered.

After a hung jury failed to reach a verdict, a mistrial was declared in the Lincoln Park shooting death of Adrian Deshaun Bell. Wayne County Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge James Callahan ordered a new hearing and trial for Shannon Maurice Henderson, charged in Bell’s April 24 death.

One of three defendants accused of abducting a 90-year-old man from a Taylor nursing home pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment. Darrell Howard acknowledged his role in removing Floyd Pickrell from the Regency Health Care, 12575 Telegraph, and keeping him in Ypsilanti before police located the man.

Opening arguments in the trial of a man charged with murdering a Taylor police officer began with assistant prosecutor Robert Stevens stating, “It ain’t a whodunnit.” Defense attorney Todd Perkins countered, “The testimony doesn’t make sense” regarding the July 2010 shooting death of Cpl. Matthew Edwards. The first week of the trial included forensic investigators and residents of the Coppertree Apartment complex who witnessed the shooting.

The long-running tensions on Detroit Street in Trenton continued as Jennifer Petkov faced court hearings to determine if a personal protection order was violated. Patkov denied authorship of Facebook postings which taunted a dying 8-year-old neighbor, Kathleen Edward. Petkov caught international attention two years earlier when it was revealed she posted altered images of Kathleen and her mother, Laura Edward, who died at age 24.

A hung jury resulted in a scheduled January 2012 retrial for two men accused of abducting 90-year-old Floyd Pickrell from a Taylor nursing home. Alfred Khattar and his son, Ted Tomes, faced charges of unlawful imprisonment and vulnerable adult abuse for allegedly kindapping Pickrell in July.

In Allen Park, voters were split on two millages. A 3.5 mill proposal for the Police and Fire departments passed but one for the studio property failed.

In the election, William Matakas was elected mayor and Bob Keenan, Angelo DeGiulio, Dennis Hayes and Harry Sisko won council seats along with incumbents Larry Templin and Tina Gaworecki.

The recall attempt of Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand was soundly defeated, with 59 percent of the voters saying “no” to the attempted removal of him from office. It was the second attempt to recall Lamarand after a 2010 campaign failed to gather enough signatures for ballot placement.

Lincoln Park swore in the first woman to hold the city’s top elected seat after Patricia Diaz Krause defeated incumbent Mayor Frank Vaslo in the general election. City Clerk Donna Breeding and Treasurer Patricia Lulko continued their service, and newcomer Tracy Bush joined incumbent City Council members Thomas Murphy, Mariano DiSanto, Mark Kandes, Suzanne Moreno and Joseph Kaiser from a crowded field of a dozen candidates.

Former City Clerk Kyle Stack unseated Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown in general election balloting, topping the former police chief 2,801-1,701. Challenger Robert Howey was elected to one of three City Council seats, along with incumbents Dan Gillespie and Bill LeFevre.

Former Southgate police officer Mitchell Heaney was arraigned in Wayne County Circuit Court on felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly hitting a motorcycle rider while driving and leaving the scene of the accident in Brownstown Township in August.

Proposed ballot language was submitted to the Wayne County Elections office on Nov. 8 — election day — seeking to recall Taylor City Council Chair Cheryl Burke. The proposed recall was organized by former city worker Charley Johnson under the name Take Back Taylor, the same group which attempted to recall Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand.

Tyress Mathews was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the July 2010 shooting death of Taylor Police Cpl. Matthew Edwards.

“He can stay behind bars with people he belongs with,” assistant prosecutor Robert Stevens said, “with cop killers and child rapists.” A nearly three-week trial was held in a courtroom populated by Taylor police officers and friends, during which dozens of witnesses testified.

A $334,000 donation from the Allen Park’s Downtown Development Authority prevented the closing of the city’s community center through the end of the fiscal year.

Councilors also rescinded layoffs to 18 police and 10 fire department employees, citing funds from a police and fire millage that voters passed the month prior.

The Archdiocese of Detroit announced plans to close or consolidate several Downriver churches. Affected churches included St. Elizabeth Catholic Church which would merge with St. Joseph Catholic Church, both in Wyandotte. St. Stanislaus Kostka also would merge with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, both of Wyandotte. Other merged churches would include St. Mary Magdeline in Melvindale and SS. Andrew and Benedict in Detroit; St. Aldred and St. Constance in Taylor; Our Lady of the Angels in Taylor and St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park; and St. Joseph and St. Timony, both in Trenton.

The proposed closure of Wyandotte’s post office sparked a call to action from the city’s mayor.

Mayor Joseph Peterson called for a letter writing campaign to oppose the closure, which he called “devastating.”

Three students of West Middle School in Taylor were suspended while police and school officials investigated a cell phone video featuring explicit sexual activity involving the students. Taylor School District Superintendent Bethany Iverson said the video featured “inappropriate” footage filmed at a house party involving two 13-year-old girls and a 13-year-old boy.

A fifth day of pre-trial examinations was held in the July 2010 dog-mauling death of 5-year-old Kyle Holland. Court officials anticipated one final session in January 2012 in Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court before determining if the boy’s mother, Debralynn Holland, and her boyfriend, Earl Dwayne Adkins, will be bound over to circuit court on manslaughter and other felony charges.

The man charged with the murder of a man in a Lincoln Park parking lot in April will have another day in court. Shannon Maurice Henderson will appear in Wayne County Circuit Court beginning March 13, charged with the murder of Adrian Deshaun Bell. In October a hung jury failed to reach a verdict after three days of testimony. Following the October mistrial, a new jury was seated in November.