$50,000 donation will benefit park, memorial

By: Maria Allard | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 12, 2013

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A township park and the veterans memorial will receive new amenities, thanks to a $50,000 donation from Sunoco.

A formal check presentation from the transportation fuel provider is scheduled for a township meeting within the coming weeks.

Township officials will split the money to use $25,000 at Chief Gene Shepherd Park and the other half at the Shelby Township Veterans Memorial site.

Township Deputy Supervisor Brad Bates said the Sunoco donation is a “goodwill gesture” because the company is replacing a nine-mile pipeline that runs through Rochester Hills, Rochester and Shelby Township.

The pipeline project will disrupt some Shelby residents, and township officials held a Town Hall meeting May 30 to answer questions. If part of the pipeline runs through a resident’s yard, Bates said Sunoco owns the easement rights. A family’s shed, for instance, may have to come down for the project, and Sunoco realizes the inconvenience that will cause. Bates said Sunoco representatives will work with residents on a “case-by-case basis.” He added that about 150 to 200 residents could be affected. 

“Sunoco has done an outstanding job to minimize the effect it has on our residents,” Bates said. “We’ll be able to continue with no surprises, hopefully.”

Township Treasurer Michael Flynn said the money for the new Chief Gene Shepherd Park will be used to pay for a third firefighter-themed playscape. The plan was to build three firefighter-themed playscapes, but the township’s budget only had allotted money for two. With the Sunoco donation, township officials can now make way for the third.

The firefighter play areas will pay respect to former township Fire Chief Gene Shepherd, who passed away from cancer in May 2012. The park sits on the former Soccer City development on 23 Mile Road, east of Dequindre Road, and has been budgeted for other amenities, including bocce ball courts and soccer fields. Construction for the new park has begun.

“We’re very, very exited to have the money,” Flynn said. “This is certainly a generous donation from Sunoco.”

The other $25,000 will benefit the Shelby Veterans Memorial site at the front of the township’s Municipal Offices on Van Dyke Avenue.

“There’s a veteran account in the Treasurer’s Office specifically for the memorial site,” said Phil Randazzo, township volunteer veterans events coordinator. “Donations or collections go into that account. That money is used for the purpose of the memorial itself. We’ll put the $25,000 into that account.”

Randazzo often approaches service organizations to garner donations for the site.

“The $25,000 is a cushion,” he said. “It’s hard to go to the public for money in today’s time. This is a big, big donation. I appreciate that kind of help.”

Randazzo said the Sunoco contribution will be used to clean up the site’s brick paver area.

“Some of the brick pavers were made out of cement that wore out,” he said. “They will be replaced with clay pavers that last longer.”

Randazzo would also like to add a “water feature to bring the memorial site to life.”

“People can sit, relax and reflect a bit,” he said. “I’m working on a design right now with a couple of companies. I’ll bring it to the Building Department and parks and recreation and have them go over it.”

The site features a monument to honor township residents killed in action during World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam, women of the military, and Purple Heart recipients. The dedication includes the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The latest addition unveiled May 19 was the 5-foot Global War on Terror memorial to honor Shelby Township military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The memorial hits close to home for Randazzo, who grew up in Shelby Township. In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict. He served two years active and four years inactive. One year was spent in Vietnam as a reconnaissance scout.

“I saw a lot of fighting and lost dozens and dozens of my guys. Luckily, I made it home,” he said. Randazzo kept a “low prolife” about his military service, but the horrors of 9/11 prompted him to become active for his country.

“I just carry this on for the young men that were killed back then,” he said of the site. “I see the families and I try to comfort them by doing things like this.”