Downriver 2012, May through August

Lions-Tigers-&-Beers-fireweb
Photo courtesy of the Allen Park Fire Department
About 100 firefighters from various Downriver communities battled the flames at Lions, Tigers and Beers in Wyandotte June 10.

May
A ballot measure in Allen Park to support the city’s failed movie studio property was voted down May 8.

Voters rejected a 4 mill, two-year millage to fund the studio property, which would have saved the city the $2.2 million a year it pays to subsidize the building.

The measure failed with 3,355 votes against and 2,313 for it.

The measure’s anticipated acceptance was written into the first draft of the city’s proposed $19.2 million budget.

That month, Allen Park councilors also voted against applying for a $3 million 20-year emergency loan from the state, originally planned to pay back $4 million in tax anticipation notes from the state. The state required the TANs before the loan. TANs do not show up as revenue in the city’s budget.

Also that month, city councilors accepted a bid for Wayne-based nonprofit The Senior Alliance to take over operations of the city-owned community center and ice rink while the city maintained ownership.

SA won out over three other companies: JRV Consulting, Family Entertainment, and Rink Management, the latter of which was discounted because it sought payment from the city to run the center.

Councilors said the five-year deal with TSA won out because as a nonprofit, it pledged to put all money earned above a 7 percent administrative cost back into programs as well as keeping all present community center programs as well as its present services.

In Wyandotte, for the second time in three months, a teen was hit by a train.

A Wyandotte boy was hit by a Western Canadian National train about 11:45 p.m. May 11 on railroad tracks north of Oak Street.

Police Chief Daniel Grant said the boy was laying on the tracks at the time. A cow catcher on the train pushed him off the tracks and he was thrown and suffered a laceration to the back of his head.

The city of Allen Park had slightly over 30 days to outsource its police and fire departments after passing a budget that left out funding for both. The budget allocated a combined $3.9 million for “contractual services” for both departments, the budgets of which were about $10 million the year prior.

At the time of the passage, no meetings had been held with prospective contractors, which were to be departments from other Downriver cities. A successful outsource plan was never reached.

Also that month, City Administrator John Zech stepped down for the second time after resigning in February and rescinding his resignation a week later. He said the council’s decision not to apply for a planned $2 million state emergency loan to pay bay tax anticipation notes they had received weighed heavily in his decision.

“That was the item that I just felt ‘It’s not working out for me to be here,’” Zech said. “What needs to happen here is they need to have someone that they can work with and I need a council that I can work with. It’s just not a good fit. I’m appreciative of being asked to serve the public, but in the best interest of Allen Park and myself, we need to part ways.”

Allen Park police were involved in a four-hour standoff with a barricaded gunman May 20 in the 15900 block of Warwick.

Derrick Mahalak was arraigned May 22 in 24th District Court and charged with assault with intent to murder, which carries up to life in prison; felonious assault, a four-year felony; and felony firearm, which carries a term of two years in prison, and given a $700,000 bond.

It is alleged that about 4:10 p.m. May 20 Mahalak barricaded himself inside the house after his wife called 911 to report that her husband had shot her in the abdomen.

Downriver Community Conference’s SWAT as well as Allen Park police and officers from Riverview, Melvindale and Lincoln Park responded and Mahalak surrendered after four hours.

A trial was pending awaiting a competency hearing for Mahalak.

Redistricting was expected to cause shakeups in the Aug. 7 primary race, with many incumbents running for seats in newly redrawn neighboring districts.

The wife of a Taylor police officer was charged with embezzlement after prosecutors alleged that she stole more than $200,000 from a local company where she worked. Beth Chirillo was charged with one count of embezzlement of more than $100,000, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

A 39-year-old parolee pleaded guilty to felony carjacking after attempting to take a vehicle away from an 81-year-old veteran at the Mobil gas station at Fort and Goddard roads. Christopher Lee Bowens, who had previous convictions for weapons and breaking and entering charges. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Carole Youngblood sentenced Bowens to 11.5 to 22 years in prison.

Alfred Khattar, called the “puppet master” of a scheme to kidnap an elderly man from a nursing home, was convicted of charges including unlawful imprisonment and vulnerable adult abuse. Khattar’s son, Ted Tomes, was found not guilty by a jury of related charges. Khattar was sentenced to four to 15 years in prison.

After initial denials of any contact, former Southgate Police officer Emmanuel Paravas testified in court that sexual contact was consensual with a woman he met while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

During a Wayne County Circuit Court trial charging Paravas with sexual assault, jurors listened to a 90-minute interview conducted by state police in which Paravas first said he did not have sex with the woman before admitting that a mutually agreed-upon liaison took place.

Paravas was found guilty of misconduct and acquitted of rape charges. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

June
May 31 and June 1, the first of a three-step financial review process by the state, which eventually led to an emergency financial manager, began in Allen Park.

State Treasury staff visited the city to conduct a preliminary review of the city’s finances, the first step toward an emergency financial manager.

Much was made of a June 2 motorcycle crash that left a Riverview firefighter hospitalized and his wife branded a hero for tending to him at the scene.

But Aurora Petrovich, a paramedic, said when she rendered aid to her husband, Troy, after his motorcycle hit a median on Southfield Freeway, she was just doing her job.

“I just did what I had to do,” Aurora Petrovich said. “I’m glad I had my training and I was able to get passed that it was my husband laying there. I turned him into just a patient.”

About 3:37 p.m. June 2, Troy Petrovich was driving his 2007 Harley Davidson motorcycle home to Lincoln Park from a party at a Detroit motorcycle club with his wife following behind to act as a “block” to other vehicles – their normal pattern – when his motorcycle hit a retaining wall.

Bad smells from the Riverview Land Preserve prompted a class action lawsuit involving area residents.

Detroit-based law firm Macuga, Liddle and Dubin P.C. filed the suit in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of residents of Trenton, Riverview and Woodhaven who say the landfill consistently releases unpleasant odors into the air near their homes.

Steven Liddle, who represents the residents in the $25,000 suit, said the smell is a result of the city’s failure to use “best available control technology” in the for-profit landfill. He denied claims that the smell originated after an April 19 explosion at the landfill’s methane recovery facility, in which one of two turbines exploded. An emergency flare was installed to burn off excess gas and address the odor issue.

The popular Wyandotte restaurant Lions, Tigers and Beers was destroyed by flames June 10.

Wyandotte Fire Chief Jeffrey Carley visited a June 12 City Council meeting to thank the approximately 100 firefighters who responded to the blaze at the restaurant, 2929 Biddle, about 7 p.m. June 10.

Along with Wyandotte police officers and firefighters, responders came from Allen Park, Southgate, Lincoln Park, Riverview and Brownstown Township.

The Detroit Fire Department Fireboat pumped water from the Detroit River to help fight the flames that left the popular sports bar and restaurant which opened in 2006, a “total loss.”

“Without their assistance and the mutual aid pacts we signed, we would have lost a whole lot more than 2929 Biddle,” Carley said.

Firefighters contained the flames within the restaurant, which sits in a historic block of closely-situated buildings, but neighboring businesses, including a lawyer’s office and Bella Donna’s bridal gown shop, sustained smoke and water damage.

Wyandotte police investigated a man who allegedly fired gunshots at a neighborhood bar June 7.

According to police reports, a 41-year-old Wyandotte man allegedly fired three shots, one of which went through a window and hit a 61-year-old Taylor man outside of Frank’s Cafe, 3852 Sixth, about 2:30 a.m. that day.

Police Chief Daniel Grant said the man was grazed in the head by the bullet.

Southgate Police Chief Jeffrey Meussner retired after more than a quarter century of law enforcement. Muessner handed over the department reins to Patrol Lt. Jeffrey Smith, an 18-year veteran of the force.

A 26-year-old man was sentenced to spend a year in the county jail after attacking two teenagers with a sword. John K. Maranian pleaded guilty to two counts of felonious assault after swinging a three-foot-long sword at and stabbing a teenager on Morris Street in Lincoln Park.

Taylor City Clerk Mary Ann Rilley took early retirement, leaving the city council with another position to fill on the heels of having replaced a treasurer. Rilley declined to comment on what was called a personal decision. Rilley was appointed clerk in August 2003.

Lincoln Park lottery winner Amanda Clayton pleaded no contest to welfare fraud charges related to her continuing acceptance of state assistance after claiming a $1 million lottery prize.

Clayton’s story attracted global headlines and prompted the Michigan legislature to approve bills — signed into law in April — requiring communications between lottery officials and Human Services, and requiring winners to declare prizes of $1,000 or more.

Southgate police and Downriver SWAT team members opened fire on a flock of seagulls that had taken up residence at a vacant Fort Street car dealership. Tens of thousands of birds took over the empty lot, likely attracted by freshly-turned dirt from road reconstruction.

Officials worried about a health hazard if the birds remained in place during Cruisin’ Downriver, and a volunteer squad opened fire to reduce the population and scare away the birds.

July
A financial review team was named to come to Allen Park, the second step toward an emergency financial manager. Lt. Gov Brian Calley appointed the six-member team after recommendations by State Treasurer Andy Dillon.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder dated June 21, Dillon outlined findings from a May 29 preliminary review of the city’s finances and says the preliminary review team found “probable financial stress” in the city, including a decreased bond rating, persistent fund deficits, deficit spending and decline in taxable values.

Riverview Community Schools trustees voted to place a revamped school improvement millage on the August primary ballot after failing in February.

The 30-year levy proposal had been trimmed to $32 million from $43 million and some of the features that appeared in February — a new cafeteria and gym at Riverview High School and a new cafeteria at Seitz Middle School — were eliminated.

The February proposal was itself trimmed from recommendations stemming from a 2007 facilities assessment recommendation totaling $93 million.

Two dismembered bodies, later found to be those of Allen Park couple Chris Hall, 42, and Danielle Greenway, 32, were found along the Detroit River.

Detroit police recovered torsos of the couple in the river near Riverview-Lakewood Park in Detroit. A fisherman discovered body parts along a seawall near where the bodies were found.

Roger K. Bowling, 39, of Allen Park was arrested later in the month and charged with with first degree murder, mutilation of a body, and felony firearm. Bowling had been a houseguest of the murdered couple, who lived in the 14600 block of Anne, according to a Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office press release.

Bowling allegedly shot and dismembered the couple in their house before disposing of them in the river. Bowling had dated Greenway several years ago.

A Plante and Moran representative informed the Allen Park City Council and mayor they likely would lose control of the city in less than two months, pending a Treasury review team visit that ultimately led to the assignment of an emergency financial manager.

A 60-day period for the review team to verify the preliminary review team’s assertion that the city is under a financial emergency began July 10, when the Treasury named a six-member review team for the city.

Dave Boomer took on the role of Allen Park Interim City Administrator.

Boomer, who took over the position in May upon the resignation of John Zech got a $5,000 raise, less than the $12,000 he asked for. The money was to come from Zech’s $81,000 salary, budgeted for this fiscal year. Boomer had turned in his resignation from the position weeks prior but the council did not vote to accept it.

The Trenton Board of Education announced plans to outsource transportation for the 2012-13 school year. General education bus service had been cancelled for the previous academic year before unexpected tax funds made possible a one-year restoration. Similar budget issues resulted in the privatization of bus service.

Taylor officials agreed to contract terms with Taylor Fire Union 1252 that preserved five department positions slated for elimination. The agreement was struck after city officials declined a federal grant to restore employees to the roster was determined to include additional costs that the city could not afford.

Trenton Department of Public Works employee Kevin Sargent pleaded guilty to 14 counts of illegal sports betting, a midemeanor, and agreed to testify against Flat Rock Police Sgt. Charles Sanders Jr., Sargent’s partner in a gambling operation the two conducted while on duty. Sargent was placed on probation for two years and returned to work after exhausting vacation and personal time.

Southgate police arrested James Alan Shields, 53, suspected of stabbing his 83-year-old mother to death on the Fourth of July. Police responded to the 12300 block of Longtin and discovered Irene Shields at the bottom of the stairs, a victim of multiple stab wounds. Shields was taken into custody, charged and referred for mental competency evaluations. Further court proceedings remain pending.

Beth Chirillo, the wife of a Taylor police officer, pleaded guilty to embezzling up to $200,000 from a local company where she worked. She was sentenced to probation and restitution.

August
Primary voters in Riverview for the second time rejected a bonding proposal school improvement package for Riverview Community Schools.

Residents voted 1,874 to 955 against the measure, a request to borrow $32 million for school improvements and repay the bonds in 30 years.

In an Aug. 8 letter to Gov. Rick Snyder a six-member review team for Allen Park cited “incoherent decision making” and other actions by a “manifestly dysfunctional” city council among its reasons for recommending an emergency financial manager rather than a consent agreement, under which a city employee would be given powers similar to those of an emergency financial manager but could not act without Treasury permission, for the financially struggling city.

The Allen Park Fire Department announced that it had been selected to receive a $1.28 million FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that will pay complete salary and benefits for six new firefighters for the next two years. The department currently has 23, five below its minimum staffing levels.

Evidence was heard in the case of Roger K. Bowling, accused of killing and dismembering an Allen Park couple and dumping their bodies in the Detroit River.

During preliminary examinations of the evidence against Bowling in 24th District Court, former roommate Robert Slick said Bowling, who had dated Danielle Greenway in high school, often talked with him about how they would eliminate the women in their lives, often threatening to “cut up” Greenway.

Greenway, 32, and her boyfriend, Chris Hall, 42, were found dead in the Detroit River July 17 shortly after taking in Bowling as a houseguest.

Trenton city officials began a series of confrontations with the Kennedy Restaurant Group, owners of the Legends 1926 bar and grill at the Kennedy Recreation Center. Trenton Parks and Recreation entered into a 2011 agreement with the ownership group, which fell behind on rent, utilities and other fees totaling more than $35,000.

Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand avoided potential jail time for contempt of court charges after accepting a federal grant to restore two dozen firefighter positions to the city department. Lamarand was taken to court by members of city council and initially resisted court orders to accept the grant until concessions by the city fire union eliminated the city’s liability for additional costs incurred by the grant.

Federal agents swarmed a Telegraph Road parking lot and executed a search warrant at Ace Wholesale Inc, which was shuttered and closed. Officers from Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent several hours loading boxes from the business into a truck parked in the rear. No details were provided and search documents were sealed in federal court.

(Compiled by James Mitchell and Andrea Poteet.)

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