Michigan Green Communities recognized West Bloomfield Township for its green initiatives, including work at Marshbank Park.

Michigan Green Communities recognized West Bloomfield Township for its green initiatives, including work at Marshbank Park.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


A year of struggle, progress in West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published December 28, 2017

 Orchard Lake Road work, near Crispelli’s Bakery and Pizzeria, proceeds in the summer.

Orchard Lake Road work, near Crispelli’s Bakery and Pizzeria, proceeds in the summer.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

 A water main break Oct. 24 on 14 Mile Road, between Farmington and Drake roads, in West Bloomfield Township caused the road to flood and 300,000 residents to experience low or no water pressure for several days.

A water main break Oct. 24 on 14 Mile Road, between Farmington and Drake roads, in West Bloomfield Township caused the road to flood and 300,000 residents to experience low or no water pressure for several days.

File photo by Donna Augusti

 The Faith and Church Room welcomes visitors in the Chaldean Cultural Center and History Museum at Shenandoah Country Club. The new museum opened in May.

The Faith and Church Room welcomes visitors in the Chaldean Cultural Center and History Museum at Shenandoah Country Club. The new museum opened in May.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 First lady Melania Trump poses for a selfie with Orchard Lake Middle School student Khalilah McKinney. Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the school Oct. 23 to kick off National Bullying Prevention Month.

First lady Melania Trump poses for a selfie with Orchard Lake Middle School student Khalilah McKinney. Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the school Oct. 23 to kick off National Bullying Prevention Month.

File photo provided by the West Bloomfield School District

 A sign in front of West Bloomfield High School, on Orchard Lake Road, encourages residents to vote “yes” May 2.

A sign in front of West Bloomfield High School, on Orchard Lake Road, encourages residents to vote “yes” May 2.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Every new year, we make a resolution to take a look back at what happened in the Beacon’s coverage area throughout the past 12 months. Here’s a look at some of the news that shaped the community in 2017: 

 

Threats revealed
In January, the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, based in West Bloomfield, received a bomb threat, which turned out to be false. The threat caused the staff of the JCC and the West Bloomfield community to come together and learn about safety. 

Officials discovered at around noon March 14 that someone had hacked into the Walk for Israel website, walkforisrael.org, posting anti-Semitic hate messages. The messages were removed and investigated, and walk organizers held fast to a peaceful and larger-than-ever event. Temple Shir Shalom hosts the yearly Walk for Israel event, which was held May 7.

After devastating active-shooter fatalities across the country — including at a church in Texas and at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas — local law enforcement officials discussed active-shooter training and safety. 

National crime statistics released in October showed that from previous years, West Bloomfield crime statistics had gone down. West Bloomfield Police Department officials said they work hard at crime prevention, and they said it shows in the statistics. 

 

Construction projects build up West Bloomfield
As many West Bloomfield residents experienced, a huge construction project on Orchard Lake Road occurred in 2017. As part of a six-month endeavor — part of the Northwestern Connector project — work began in early June.

The resurfacing and reconstruction of the road, turning the five-lane road into a divided four-lane boulevard, lasted until late November. 

The completion of the project came as a relief to township residents and the 44,000 daily commuters on the road. 

The Family Aquatic Center, operated by the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission, began the process of redevelopment. The dated facility was seen as a waste of energy and “not up to the township’s standards,” Parks Superintendent Joe Ketchum said last summer. 

The facility was closed in the fall and will be demolished after the winter is over. The new FAC is still in the design phase and will reopen for summer 2019. 

 

Public safety a hot topic in Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake
Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake had been discussing the possibility of sharing a police chief for a while, but conversations got serious in the summer. The biggest reason for the shared chief was to save money for both municipalities. 

The Keego Harbor Police Department had been discussing a merger with the West Bloomfield Police Department, but City Council members were against it. The chief of police in Keego Harbor, Kenneth Hurst, agreed to look at Sylvan Lake as a possible option with Sylvan Lake City Manager John Martin. 

At a special meeting held by Sylvan Lake, many community members voiced their displeasure with the city even talking about sharing a police chief with Keego Harbor. The Sylvan Lake City Council voted to end conversations of sharing a police chief with Keego Harbor. 

With Sylvan Lake’s decision, Keego Harbor officials then weighed the option of levying a public safety millage to bring more money in for the Police Department. During two town hall events in October, city residents came out to voice their support for the millage. 

In November, the public safety millage passed in Keego Harbor with 71 percent of votes. The city can now levy up to 4 mills for eight years to support public safety. 

 

Area deals with weather, water problems
A wild windstorm blew through the Beacon’s coverage area and all of Oakland County March 8. Winds clocked at 60 mph caused the power to go out for 800,000 county residents, causing what DTE Energy called the single worst outage in its 100-year history.

More than 600 trees were down across county streets, and 150 traffic signals were left without power. 

In the fall, some West Bloomfield residents were left without water after a water main break on 14 Mile Road, between Farmington and Drake roads. 

Fifty-thousand Oakland County residents experienced little to no water pressure for about four days, from Oct. 24 until the end of a boil-water advisory on Oct. 27. 

Officials aren’t sure what caused the “unprecedented” break. New sections of water pipes had to be installed where the leak occurred.  

In the summer, eclipse fever took over the area for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse that was visible across the United States, the first one in 26 years. 

The summer season also saw a lot of swimmers in local lakes, and sometimes that can get dangerous. Three local drownings spurred conversations about swimming safety in local lakes, especially Cass Lake, the largest and deepest lake in the West Bloomfield area. 

 

Officials battle opioid epidemic
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard announced charges against 12 local individuals accused of selling heroin mixed with deadly fentanyl in October.

Police were able to connect a highly skilled narcotics organization with the distribution of drugs that ultimately led to multiple overdose deaths in the area.

The individuals charged were largely from Pontiac, with other defendants coming from Auburn Hills, Commerce Township, Keego Harbor and Waterford. They ranged in age from 24 to 50 years old, and police have evidence that the ring’s operations date back to 2013.  

West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton said that one of his detectives was assigned to assist with the bust. He said he was pleased with the results, since like most communities, his area has seen a surge in opioid use and related crimes.

“Since this showed up on our radar in West Bloomfield just three and a half years ago, we’ve had 37 heroin overdoses. Nine of them have died. In that same period of time, I’ve not had nine homicides. I’ve not had nine fatal car crashes. I’m not sure we’ve even had nine suicides,” Patton said in October. “This is a significant impact.”

Also in October, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson joined Wayne County Executive Warren Evans at the Guardian Building in Detroit for a press conference to announce a joint lawsuit against multiple drug manufacturers and distributors who they believe to be in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The suit, they said, alleges that the companies engaged in deceptive marketing and sales of opioid drugs, like OxyContin and fentanyl, to increase profits despite the fact that opioid-related addictions and deaths are on the rise and continue to climb and devastate communities across the region.

 

West Bloomfield School District aims to improve
In May, voters in West Bloomfield passed a bond proposal for the West Bloomfield School District. 

The bond — a two-series, $120 million, 20-year proposal — passed with 68.69 percent of the vote.

The bond will allow the school district to implement its long-range facilities plan while making sure the school district is the right size for this generation and the next, school officials said.