Downriver Year in Review

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Family members of fallen Riverview veterans listed on the new monument unveil it during the Memorial Day remembrance May 30 in Young Patriots Park. Of the 17 veterans listed, family members of World War II veterans Edward M. Hicks and Irving R. Lambrix, Korean War veteran Paul J. Terry, and Vietnam War veterans Thomas J. Evans and Kenneth E. Treadway were present and took part in the monument unveiling.

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Family members of fallen Riverview veterans listed on the new monument unveil it during the Memorial Day remembrance May 30 in Young Patriots Park. Of the 17 veterans listed, family members of World War II veterans Edward M. Hicks and Irving R. Lambrix, Korean War veteran Paul J. Terry, and Vietnam War veterans Thomas J. Evans and Kenneth E. Treadway were present and took part in the monument unveiling.

By TEREASA NIMS
and SCOTT BEWICK
Sunday Times Newspapers

Here’s a look back at the middle third of 2016 and the news that shaped Downriver.

May

Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, a Riverview native, relieved Cmdr. Ed Sundberg as commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) during a change of command ceremony May 3. Angelinas previously served as the ships executive officer and received his commission from Officer Candidate School in December 1998.

Volunteers determined to get the Melvindale city pool open after a two-year hiatus announced the need for a new $60,000 pool liner.

Sears Holding Corp announced the closing of the Taylor Super Kmart, 21111 Van Born, along with nearly 70 Kmart stores and 10 Sears outlets to regain profitability. According to company releases, liquidation sales began in May.

Southgate’s financial picture was greeted as promising news as Southgate officials offered a stable budget and nominal increase in water rates charged to residents. “The budget reflects the consistent manner in which revenues and expenses have been managed in for the last six years,” City Administrator Bryce Kelley said. “It’s cautious and conservative, but we haven’t lost any ground.”

Taylor officials completed an agreement that will bring a new trash and recycling service provider to town. Rizzo Environmental Services took over routes June 13, following city council’s approval of the contract.

The Riverview City Council studied a recommendation to move adult-oriented business zoning from the general business district to a general industrial area from Krause and Electric to the river.

Dogs of all sizes and their owners began enjoying Wyandotte’s new dog park at 11th and Cherry streets. The dog park has two fenced areas to allow for the separation of large and small dogs.

Former Allen Park Mayor Gerald Richards died May 10 at the age of 77. Richards was mayor from 1987 to 1995 and was active in the community until his death.

Allen Park institutes the Extra Eyes Camera voluntary registry program to help police investigate and prosecute crimes more effectively. Residents can register their outside security cameras so police have a record of available resources when needed.

The Wyandotte City Council, in a 3-3 vote, rejected a proposal to sell the vacant McKinley School to a developer for $1 for conversion to market-rate senior apartments. The proposal would have sold the former school, to the owners of Coachlight Properties, who proposed converting the building and adding on to it to create 60 market-rate apartments for residents age 55 and older. Council members opposing the proposal objected to the sale price for what will be a $6 million to $7 million project.

Riverview Community High School honored longtime baseball coach Jesse Jenkins by naming the varsity baseball field after him in a May 18 pregame ceremony. Scores of Jenkins’ classmates, teammates and former players flooded the infield to watch the dedication of Jesse Jenkins Alumni Field.

More than 100 volunteers cleared overgrown grass and winter debris at Ferndale Cemetery in Riverview after social media complaints revealed how unkempt the family owned cemetery had become.

The Melvindale Downtown Development Authority voted May 26 to re-name Memorial Park at Oakwood and Prospect Cardinal Park, hoping the re-branding will change its perception from a sacred space to multi-use.

A memorial honoring Riverview’s 17 military veterans who died in the line of duty was unveiled May 30 in Young Patriot’s Park, 14300 Sibley Road. The monument is 8 feet tall, with a 3-foot-by-2-foot granite base, and room for additional names. The bronze top features a sculpture of a military helmet, rifle and boots.

June

Following feedback from residents, and counter to the Public Safety Commission’s recommendation, the Melvindale City Council June 15 voted against entering into a central dispatch agreement with Dearborn for emergency services. Issues that were brought up as concerns included whether moving to a central dispatch agreement was a cost savings, or a safety improvement.

The Wyandotte City Council granted temporary outdoor cafe approval to Whiskeys on the Water in time for the Street Art Fair. Discussions at earlier council meetings focused on whether a newly approved outdoor cafe would be grandfathered in under old rules being revised in response to resident concerns about noise, crowds, safety and other issues.

A Taylor man faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to one of four felony charges resulting from the February crash that took the life of a Taylor teenager. Justin Robert Saum, 35, pleaded guilty on June 15 to failure to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident resulting in death. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.

More than 100,000 friends, neighbors and visitors were expected to stroll downtown Trenton as the city’s 41st annual Summer Festival brought a “Star Wars” theme to town under the collective banner of “Reaching for the Stars.”

A September trial was scheduled for two cousins accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 23-year-old Detroit woman in Lincoln Park.
Lincoln Park police investigated the death of a 47-year-old Ecorse woman who was struck while bicycling on Southfield Road by a truck driver. Initial reports indicated the woman may have been intoxicated as it appeared she rode in front of the moving vehicle.

A woman allegedly robbed Monroe Bank & Trust, 7146 Pelham in Taylor, bank with a note threatening harm to “all U.S. citizens.” After loitering in the lobby until other customers left, the woman — wearing a black, patterned scarf and was described as being about 5 feet 4 inches tall — approached a teller and presented two notes written on bank forms. “Give me all your 100s and 50s,” one note read. “I have a bomb and will blow up all U.S. citizens.” The teller handed over an undisclosed amount of cash.

After seeing Little Free Libraries during a three-week trip around the world, Allen Park resident Wendy Fichter launched one close to home, on Euclid, one block southeast of Allen Road. Little Free Libraries, usually a small wooden box of books mounted on a post, is a free “take a book, return a book” exchange for anyone to enjoy.

The Riverview City Council unanimously voted to expand the city Land Preserve by redesigning Riverview Highlands Golf Course. The move added 12 years to the life of the landfill, which was estimated to reach capacity between 2025 and 2028.

What a Riverview church considers joyful noise hit sour notes with nearby residents who said the amplified sound subjected them to unwanted noise and vibration in their homes. A petition signed by neighbors of Metro City Church cited violations of the city noise ordinance.

The Melvindale High School ROV team went to Houston to compete against high school and college remotely operated underwater vehicle teams at the international level. The team — seniors Riyon Affara, Apolonio Cazares, Luis Plaza, and Giovanni Sanchez; junior Marco Lopez; and their teacher, Randy Thomas — advanced from state competition March 19 and regional competition April 30.

July

A vehicle involved in a collision at Allen and Greenfield roads crashed through a fence and into a DTE Energy 500-pound gas main line valve. The resulting explosion and fire resulted in the evacuation of 1,500 Melvindale residents and reduced the intersection to ashes. In the aftermath, residents expressed the need for a more effective warning system and automatic alerts.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced the closure of the Rouge River Bridge on I-75 from February 2017 through 2018 for replacement of the bridge deck. Southbound traffic will be detoured for the length of the project, and four lanes will remain open northbound, on the original roadway, and then redirect north on the repaired southbound lanes.

Lincoln Park officials announced that several garages would be torn down in the interest of public safety. City Manager Matt Coppler said a committee met and resident complaints were heard. Five of the seven buildings – mostly garages along with a business and house – had been confirmed for demolition.

Thousands of classic car enthusiasts roamed and lined the street when the 12th annual Telegraph Classic Car Cruise kicked into gear July 23. City officials in Taylor, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Redford Township welcomed cruisers along Telegraph Road from Ecorse Road north to Puritan Road.

Taylor police responded to an accident that shocked the community and claimed the life of a 16-year-old Taylor boy who was electrocuted in his backyard. Truman High School sophomore Austin Kane Wohlfeil and his 20-year-old brother had discovered a downed power line behind their house in the 6000 block of Michael July 8. According to police reports, Austin shot water at the line with a large squirt gun. Both brothers then “received a jolt and were knocked down.” It was uncertain if Austin had any physical contact with the line, but he remained on the ground.

The death of a 29-year-old Taylor native at the U.S. Marine Corps training base Parris Island remained under investigation as family, friends and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) looked for answers in what may have been a hate-crime based hazing. In March it was reported that Pvt. Raheel Siddiqui died after falling into a 40-foot stairwell on his 11th day at the South Carolina training camp. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials said there were “no apparent signs of foul play,” but that the investigation could take months.

Ownership of Wendy’s, 18902 North Line Road in Southgate, joined police in investigating how pieces of glass ended up in a hamburger served to a 3-year-old girl, June 27. The girl’s mother said she heard crunching while the girl ate the burger, and discovered pieces of glass in it. Restaurant staff were alerted, and the child was taken to a nearby hospital where she was treated and released.

Sunday Times reporter James A. Mitchell, 56, of Sterling Heights died Aug. 20 of an apparent heart attack. He was survived by his son, Alex, a Marine, and his girlfriend of 20 years, Linda Remilong.

A 38-year-old motorcycle rider died after being pinned under a Ford F-150 with his bike on fire Aug. 31 near Dix-Toledo and I-75, after reportedly being struck by the same pickup. Authorities said residents in the area complained the driver of the truck was “driving erratically” about 1 p.m. in the area of Dix-Toledo, near the I-75 interchange before striking the victim’s motorcycle in the back. Residents said prior to the crash, the pickup driver was recklessly navigating streets and lawns in the neighborhood

Southgate Public Safety Director and Police Chief Thomas Coombs retired. The appointment of Detective Brian Klonowski as police chief was strongly supported by City Council and other officials, although the promotion brought back to the surface a 2004 assault charge against Klonowski that resulted in his having been suspended for one year.

Trenton city planners gave final approval to the planned development to transform the long-dormant Riverside Hospital, 2171 W. Jefferson, into the Riverside Wellness Center proposed by NAMA Management on behalf of owner Dr. Iqbal Nasir. The first of four development phases for the complex were ready to begin.

Former Lincoln Park Mayor and police Lt. Robert C. Heyer died. He was a top graduate at Madonna University’s law enforcement school. Mayor Tom Karnes fondly recalled Heyer, who died July 24, at age 87 – and noted the similar lives and paths taken through the department and mayor’s office.

Police in two states joined family and friends in mourning the tragic loss last week of Mike Topping, who spent much of his life serving on the Trenton Police Department and also working for a police agency in Florida. Topping, 58, died Aug. 9, from injuries sustained days earlier in a motorcycle crash in Tennessee while on his way home from his Riverview Community High School class reunion.

The Riverview City Council discussed amendments to the city’s medical marijuana ordinances regarding providers with multiple recipients. The ordinances address regulation of the location and operation of medical marijuana caregivers within the city, and the transportation and possession of usable marijuana within the city.

Joseph an Lois McDermott, who met in 1998 while volunteering at a pancake breakfast and later married, were named Wyandotte Citizens of the Year.

A 21-year-old Dearborn man was found dead in his car from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound July 18 in Bishop Park. The man’s grandmother said he had attempted suicide in the past and was diagnosed as bipolar, a psychiatric illness characterized by manic highs and depressive lows. She said he had been seeing a doctor and getting counseling.

Conflict between Salvation Army and Wyandotte Street Art Fair officials became heated at the July council meeting over bell ringers being asked to comply with festival rules for non-profits and vacate their traditional clock tower spot.

Former Allen Park Mayor Levon King and his wife, Gloria, died in a plane crash July 22 in Harmony Township, Ohio.King was mayor from 1999 to 2003 and Southgate administrator from 2005 to 2009.

August

After being closed for two years, the Melvindale city pool reopened Aug. 6. Save the Pool volunteer John Barnett said at the reopening ceremony, that after eight months of effort, it “felt great” to see the pool reopen. He said they did it for the children.

The Wyandotte City Council, in a 3-2 vote, rejected a modified redevelopment plan for the McKinley property. The revised plans called for 60 market rate senior citizen apartments within the existing building and an addition. Council members Sheri Sutherby-Fricke and Daniel Galeski expressed concern over what they called bullying tactics to change their vote to side with those in the simple majority and in favor of the redevelopment.

The Riverview City Council approved the conversion from mercury vapor streetlights to Light Emitting Diode lights, which is estimated to save the city $9,700 annually.

Allen Park officials, architects and residents packed a second story city hall conference room for a study session Aug. 16 to hear proposals for future city hall and Police Department sites. The Police Department’s lack of a jail currently necessitates reliance on Dearborn Police Department facilities. the department also lacks secure parking for its vehicles, and a gun range for ongoing officer training. Officers said the present layout of the department has caused them to lose desirable officer recruits to cities with better facilities.

Melvindale Police Chief Chad Hayse, who was suspended for 20 days Aug. 3 with no reason given, was terminated by a unanimous City Council vote Aug. 30 following five-and-a-half hours of hearings over two days on five counts of charges.

The charges — all of which Hayse denied — included: posting political and personal comments on an official city social media page; misleading the public safety commission and city council about a 911 equipment upgrade delay and details about a possible dispatch merger with Dearborn; instructing officers regarding the usage of towing services contrary to the enforcement of the uniform traffic code; failure to properly document an officer’s suspension in writing; and the use of profanity, vulgarity and slanderous statements directed toward elected and appointed public officials.

Taylor Teacher Donna Cahalan, who usually spent her own money supplying her third-grade class at Clarence Randall Elementary School was awarded with a $490 gift card and iPad from Walmart as part of its Commander in Teach(ers) program. Walmart estimates that teachers spend about that much out of their own pocket during a school year. Cahalan has been with the district for 19 years. She was nominated by school principal Cynthia Meszaros.

Several Downriver firefighters spent hours Sept. 4, extinguishing a blaze at the vacant Fletcher Elementary School on Pardee Road in Taylor. There were no injuries and the cause was unknown. The structure was erected in 1938 and due to blight, the city was expected to use a $100,000 grant to demolish the structure this year. City officials said was vacant for more than 30 years.

(Next week, September to December.)