Downriver 2012, January through April

January
In Allen Park, Plante and Moran’s Carl Johnson predicted the city would run out of money by March unless it borrowed $2.1 million from the state. It made up the loss with a Tax Anticipation Note and planned to pay it back with an emergency loan from the state, but the city council later voted against the move and the measure was not made until Emergency Financial Manager Joyce Parker opted to apply for it in the fall.

In Melvindale, a homework assignment in which students were asked to imagine what it was like to be a slave at Strong Middle School came under fire when a biracial student told his mother it made him feel “embarrassed to be black.”

Lincoln Park Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause interviewed several applicants en route to appointing Greg Capote as city manager. The position had been vacant since the resignation of Steve Duchane in September 2011. Some on city council debated the merits of replacing the $100,000-plus position given the city’s financial struggles.

The girl who battled Huntington’s disease and sparked an ugly neighborhood battle passed away after a two year struggle. Trenton’s Detroit Street attracted international attentions when Jennifer Petkov, a neighbor of 9-year-old Kathleen Edwards, taunted the girl and her mother, Laura Edwards, who also suffered from the disease.

A Trenton Department of Public Works employee was charged, along with a Flat Rock Police officer, with operating an illegal gambling ring while on the clock. DPW staffer Kevin Sargent and Flat Rock Sgt. Charles Sanders Jr. were arraigned following a year-long investigation by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The two were charged with running a sports gambling operation and faced 14 counts of illegal sports betting and racketeering.

During his annual State of the City address, Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa described a pending ‘Renaissance’ of economic recovery. Kuspa cited budget streamlining, state and federal grants and development projects including the anticipated redevelopment of the Southgate Shopping Center as evidence that the worst of the economic storm was past.

Taylor officials scrambled to submit a five-year deficit reduction plan and avoid potential state takeover of financial management. An audit presentation revealed a $1.7 million deficit to be addressed, and city officials began extended negotiations with employee unions in search of budget reductions.

February
Allen Park City Administrator John Zech tendered his resignation, effective Feb. 1, the third holder of that position in the city to resign the post in a year. At the time, he said the city needed an administrator “more compatible with City Council.” He rescinded his resignation a week later.

In Allen Park, a high school varsity basketball player was kicked off the team and suspended for 10 days after players from visiting Melvindale HIgh School girl’s junior varsity team found a drawing of a lynching victim on a dry erase board in the locker room. The student came forward after the coach threatened to cancel the season.

That same month, city councilors were deadlocked in a 3-3 vote to put a 4 mill-two year levy on the May 8 ballot. The levy would have offset a $2.6 million annual subsidy to the city’s failed movie studio property. A week later, the resolution passed 4 to 3.

Several Downriver Catholic churches faced closure or consolidation after the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit announced its final plans for a consolidation program. On the list for closures was Wyandotte’s St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. Merged churches included Wyandotte’s St. Patrick Catholic Church, which was to merge with St. Elizabeth’s and St. Joseph’s merged congregations. Wyandotte’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel was to merge with St. Stanislaus Kostka.

Feb 24, Wayne County Circuit Judge John Gillis ordered the city to hire six firefighters to fulfill its contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1410. The contract calls for minimum staffing levels of 28 firefighters. At the time, the city had 28. The city quickly filed an appeal of the decision.

In his first State of the City address, Allen Park Mayor William Matakas called for an end to “the attitude that others created our problems,” remaining hopeful that the city could overcome “the chaos of the last four years,” due chiefly to the failure of the city-owned movie studio property and a $9.3 million drop in property taxes.

In Riverview voters voters struck down a $43.3 million bond proposal for improvements throughout the school district in the Presidential Primary Election.

The proposal failed 2,177 votes to 1,027 votes in Riverview and 47 votes to 17 votes in Trenton, where some students attend the district’s schools.

In a letter dated Feb. 28, the Allen Park Firefighters Local 1410 agreed to pay a portion of its health insurance costs, among other concessions, as an answer to a letter the city sent them and the two police unions Feb. 15. The letter asked for 10 percent cuts to base pay and for the unions to pay 20 percent of their insurance costs.

According to the letter, the fire union did not accept the wage cuts, but did agree to the insurance costs and to maintain current staffing levels of 22 active firefighters plus one on leave. The concessions were contingent on the successful passage of a May 8 public safety millage.

In Wyandotte, community support poured in for a Roosevelt High School student who was hit by a train Feb. 28.

“We have the classroom kind of functioning as a business right now,” RHS marketing teacher Elissa Cumiskey said of her class’ fundraiser for 14-year-old Jacob Marion. “We have students taking orders.”

Several fundraisers were organized for the teen, who police say was hit by a train while walking on railroad tracks and listening to music on his phone.

For the second time a hung jury resulted in a new trial ordered for two men accused of abducting an elderly man from a Taylor nursing home. Alfred Khattar and his son, Ted Robert Tomes, faced charges of unlawful imprisonment and vulnerable adult abuse for allegedly kidnapping 90-year-old Floyd Pickerell from Regency Health Care. A third trial was ordered by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Carole Youngblood.

After four months of hearings and testimony, charges were confirmed in the dog-mauling death of 5-year-old Kyle Holland at his mother’s Lincoln Park house. Debralynn Holland and Earl Dwayne Adkins were bound over to circuit court on charges of involuntary manslaughter, child abuse and owning a dangerous animal after a wolf-dog hybrid mauled the boy in his sleep.

The Detroit Street neighbor battle of Trenton aired nationally when family members of Kathleen and Laura Edwards appeared along with Jennifer Petkov on the “Dr. Phil” TV show. Petkov offered apologies and the family used the forum to bring an end to a long-running feud.

The Taylor City Council appointed former Lincoln Consolidated Schools Supt. Lynn Cleary to the treasurer position that had been vacant since the June 2011 resignation of Wayne Avery. The appointment was debated for several months by council members who failed to reach a concensus. Cleary retired in June 2011 after a 30-year education career and was living in Florida when she accepted the post.

March
A warehouse in Wyandotte was at the center of a federal drug case involving 18 people and five states.

In a March. 1 press release, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration alleged that the warehouse, 4644 Biddle, was a meeting and shipping point for a drug cartel that shipped kilos of cocaine from Mexico to Michigan.

Eighteen alleged members of the Mexican-based Sinaloa Cartel, alleged to have distributed between 100 and 300 kilograms of cocaine a month in the metropolitan Detroit area, were indicted for conspiracy to distribute in excess of 800 kilograms.

An Allen Park council vote in March eventually led to the appointment of an emergency financial manager by the state.

Councilors unanimously voted to ask City Administrator John Zech to draft a letter to the state Treasury asking for a preliminary financial review and citing a financial emergency, one of 14 automatic triggers for a review team that could result in an emergency financial manager under Michigan Public Act 4. The letter was approved a week later.

An outside lawyer was hired to investigate unspecified complaints made against Allen Park City Clerk Michael Mizzi by a city employee.

The city council voted to hire John M. Barr of Ypsilanti-based Barr, Anhut and Associates P.C. to investigate the complaints by one city staff member levied against Mizzi.

One man was killed an two others injured by an explosion in a garage generated by gasoline poured onto a wood-burning stove. Dustin McCloud, 20 was killed when he attempted to light a stove in his McGuire Street garage.

The Lincoln Park Historical Society hosted authors Martin Bertera and Kim Crawford, whose book on the 4th Michigan Infantry’s Civil War service kicked off a year’s worth of events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the local heritage and connections.

Taylor city officials approved a May 8 special election seeking voter approval of a Headlee Amendment rollback that would generate more than $1 million in much-needed revenue.

Gerald Eugene Dennis Jr., 43, was charged with first-degree murder in the homicide of his sister, Deborah Gayle Seifert, 53, in her College Avenue home in Lincoln Park. Police said that Dennis confessed to the murder, claiming that his sister had been abusive. Competency valuations were ordered after arraignment in 25th District Court.

More than 80 hockey players and fans became ill from what was believed to be a norovirus at the Taylor Sportsplex. The city-owned sports complex was closed for nearly a week for cleaning and disinfecting.

A jury found Shannon Maurice Henderson innocent in the April 2011 murder of Adrian Deshaun Bell in a Lincoln Park parking lot. The trial was the second one for Henderson after a December session ended in a mistrial.

William Grusecki was appointed Superintendent of Southgate Community Schools, taking over from interim chief Nancy Nagle. Grusecki was formerly superintendent of the Arenac Eastern School District, and accepted the challenges of a budget-strapped district that recently cancelled general education bus service and privatized custodial service.

April
In Wyandotte, a reversal on a decision to demolish a city-owned property has caused discussion and concern among councilors.

Councilors had purchased the building at 936 Ford to demolish it, as the building sits close to the curb and blocks the view of southbound drivers on Electric.

But at a later meeting, councilors voted not to demolish the building and started a bid process for its restoration, a decision Councilman James DeSana, who was absent from that meeting, decried in a letter to the council read at Monday’s meeting.

A motion for Allen Park to issue tax anticipation notes, effectively borrowing against future tax income, stalled.

City councilors passed a motion to table the action, the first in a two-step process for the cash-strapped city to net $2 million to get through the end of the June 30 fiscal year, after Councilman Dennis Hayes cited a lack of information about the move and the city’s finances as a whole.

A planned retail development in Allen Park’s former movie studio property on Southfield Road was stalled after the developer failed to close on the sale.

A 180-day period the city gave Birmingham-based Elia Group LLC to close on a 2.75 acre lot of the property ended, and Mayor William Matakas said the company chose not to go forward with the project.

The sale would have netted the financially struggling city $600,000 for the portion of the 104-acre property, where they planned to build a combination restaurant and retail space.

Allen Park City Council passed a motion April 17 to apply for $4 million in tax anticipation notes, effectively borrowing next year’s taxes from the state treasury, to avoid running out of general fund money, a fate Plante and Moran’s Carl Johnson, the city’s acting financial director, said could have happened in as few as two weeks without the money,

A turbine exploded at Riverview’s methane recovery plant April 19. At the time, a city official said the city had received no complaints about odor and no one was injured. The turbine was one of two at the facility, part of the Riverview Land Preserve but owned and operated by Riverview Energy Systems, owned in part by DTE Energy.

At their April 24 meeting, Riverview Community Schools board members approved an application to qualify for bonds from the state treasury, the first step in getting a proposal on the ballot.

The 30-year proposal was slightly different from a similar one that failed in February, and has been slimmed down from $43 million to $32 million.

Former Southgate police officer Mitchell Heaney was acquitted of felony hit-and-run charges for an April 2011 accident, and found guilty of one misdemeanor moving violation. Heaney was charged with failing to stop and leaving the scene of a property damage accident in which a motorcyclist suffered a broken leg, punctured lung and three broken ribs.

Limited school of choice availability was approved for the 2012-2013 school year by the Trenton Schools Board of Education. Enrollment was limited to a maximum of 60 students as a method of offsetting the district’s anticipated $700,000 budget deficit.

A Lincoln Park lottery winner was charged by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette with fraud when it was discovered she continued accepting public funds and state assistance after winning a $1 million jackpot. Amanda Clayton was charged with two felony counts of welfare fraud.

Taylor city officials approved a plan to sell the municipal Sportsplex, a potential $6 million sale designed to ease some of the anticipated $5 million budget deficit and attract outside developers to the city.

Debralynn Holland and Earl Dwayne Adkins pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges related to the dog-mauling death of Kyle Holland in their Lincoln Park home.

(Compiled by James Mitchell and Andrea Poteet)

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