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January 2, 2013

Delve into ’12 for the last time

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Mourners gather during a Sept. 11 memorial service near the West Bloomfield Police Department to honor Sgt. Patrick O’Rourke, who was fatally shot while on duty in September.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., addresses supporters at the Long Family Orchard, Farm & Cider Mill in Commerce Township during an Aug. 24 campaign stop. Ryan was the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right. Romney’s wife, Ann, stands in between.
 

The year 2012 ended without an apocalypse, but the times were still eventful in the Beacon’s coverage area. The West Bloomfield School District sought and found a new superintendent. Presidential and vice presidential candidates paid visits to West Bloomfield and Commerce Township. And in tragic news, West Bloomfield lost a member of its police force in the line of duty.

Here’s a look at some of the top local stories of 2012:

January
• Sixteen-year-old Leonard White received an adult sentence of four to 15 years Jan. 11 after being convicted in December of the voluntary manslaughter of Johnathan Rickman, 17. White had been arrested after stabbing Rickman with a kitchen knife in June 2011, when he was reportedly arguing in a West Bloomfield home’s kitchen.

• Former West Bloomfield police officer Jeffrey Pindzia received a two-month jail sentence with two years of probation in Oakland County Circuit Court Jan. 10. He had pleaded no contest to misconduct in office in 2011. The case involved allegations of ticket fixing, police said.

• Credit rating firm Standard & Poor’s maintained West Bloomfield’s AA+ rating with a stable outlook, according to a Jan. 25 report.

• West Bloomfield School District shut classes down Jan. 30 after 18 buses were vandalized at a bus storage area near Abbott Middle School. Orchard Lake police believed that two people had hopped a bus lot fence the previous night.

A similar April 17 vandalism incident at the bus storage area shut down classes again the following day.

February
• Bestselling author Jeffrey Zaslow of West Bloomfield died in a car crash Feb. 10 in the northern Lower Peninsula at age 53. Zaslow wrote “The Last Lecture” with Randy Pausch, a professor who was dying of pancreatic cancer.

• Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the candidate of choice among greater West Bloomfield area residents in the Feb. 28 Michigan Republican presidential primary race. Romney earned 58.4 percent in West Bloomfield, 68.6 percent in Orchard Lake, 58.6 percent in Sylvan Lake and 49 percent in Keego Harbor. Romney later lost to President Barack Obama in the November general election.

• Evelyn “Evie” Szirtes was born at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital at 4:20 a.m. Feb. 29, Leap Day. The hospital confirmed that it had 10 births that day.

March
• Orchard Lake’s 2012-13 fiscal year financial plan predicted that city finances could soon make inroads toward recovery, according to officials at a March 19 Orchard Lake City Council meeting.

• West Bloomfield Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste’s March 29 State of the Township address announced that property values were stabilizing compared to past years, and she mentioned efforts to streamline and automate operations. Among other things, she listed energy-efficiency projects and new commercial development among the township’s accomplishments.

April
• The Detroit-based Straight Gate International Church opened a branch location, Straight Gate West, in West Bloomfield April 8. It held its first serve inside Orchard Lake Middle School’s gym.

• On April 30, the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education voted 7-0 to outsource transportation services to Durham School Services and to outsource custodial services to GCA Services Group. School officials encouraged workers to apply for jobs with the private companies. Superintendent JoAnn Andrees blamed Lansing’s financial decisions, declining enrollment and less revenue for making the move necessary.

May
• Walled Lake Consolidated School District officials announced May 9 that they had identified a student who allegedly made threats at Walled Lake Northern High School, starting May 3 and throughout the span of a week. The school’s principal said security cameras and a thorough investigation helped find the suspected culprit, who was taken into the Oakland County Sheriff ‘s Office’s custody.

• In a 3-2 vote, the Sylvan Lake City Council chose May 9 to levy 4.7 out of a maximum 5 mills for public safety, while approving the 2012-13 millage rates and budget. A lower drop in taxable values than earlier predicted convinced some council members not to levy the full amount.

• The West Bloomfield Police Department unveiled a new K-9 memorial during a National Police Week memorial ceremony for fallen officers at the station May 17. The memorial, featuring a bronze German shepherd statue, was the idea of 14-year-old Joshua Geary, as an Eagle Scout leadership project.

• Sandra Layne, 74, was arrested May 18 at her West Bloomfield home after allegedly shooting and killing her 17-year-old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman. She was charged with murder, which could mean life in prison, if convicted. A trial is expected to begin in March.

• For the first time in many years, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake held separate Memorial Day parades, instead of combining resources in their previous Lakes Area Memorial Day Parades. Keego Harbor Mayor Pro Tem Sid Rubin cited dissatisfaction with how things were handled the previous year. In response, Sylvan Lake Councilman Russell Meskin had expressed hope that the two cities could still share a parade, but that didn’t happen.

June
• The township Board of Trustees voted 7-0 June 4 to ban the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana in the township. Officials pointed to media reports about the consequences of synthetic marijuana use, including apparent overdoses and reported crime.

• On June 21, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s rulings in a lawsuit between two factions of the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees. The court believed that four township board members acted lawfully in 2010, when they voted to approve Police Chief Mike Patton without an initial nomination by Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste. The court also ultimately affirmed that Trustee Larry Brown could decline his compensation for attending meetings.

• West Bloomfield School District Superintendent JoAnn Andrees retired at the end of the month, at age 63. She had served the district for around 21 years in several roles and became the superintendent in 2008. In June, the Board of Education picked Gerald Hill to take Andrees’ place.

July
• A Westland man drowned while swimming in Pleasant Lake July 8, making it West Bloomfield’s first summer aquatic-related death. The victim, 24, tried to swim from the shore to a pontoon boat, but struggled and sank along the way, police said. 

• According to police, 50 computerized cards that insert into ballot machines and record votes were swiped from a locked room in the West Bloomfield Township Clerk’s Office July 10-11.

According to the Clerk’s Office, about 40 of the 50 cards were blank, and the cards had nothing to do with voters’ personal information. After the cards went missing, a public accuracy test was held before the Aug. 7 primary election.

• Township officials rescinded a June anti-mute swan resolution July 16. The resolution would’ve made it easier to get the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ help in culling the swan population, but officials said they later learned that the program could’ve euthanized the birds.

• The Keego Harbor City Council voted July 19 to repave several more streets in the city as part of a citywide commitment to improving them.

August
• After the Aug. 7 state primary election, all of the incumbent township Board of Trustees members except Trustee Gene Farber won their primaries.

• The West Bloomfield Township Planning Commission heard details Aug. 14 about a proposed Muslim Cultural Center with attached mosque on the former site of Eagle Elementary School. The Islamic Cultural Association of Franklin said the facility would benefit local Muslims. Some residents panned the proposed building’s aesthetics or believed that it would invite traffic problems. The issue has been delayed until 2013.

• Vice President Joe Biden visited West Bloomfield’s Shenandoah Country Club Aug. 22 for a fundraiser. The event was closed to the press, and several police departments accompanied the motorcade to guarantee the vice president’s safety.

• Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., visited the Long Family Orchard, Farm & Cider Mill in Commerce Township for a campaign stop Aug. 24. During the event, Romney made a birth certificate joke that raised the ire of some Democrats.

September
• West Bloomfield police officer Patrick O’Rourke, 39, of Fenton, was fatally shot the night of Sept. 9 while responding to a report of gunfire at a West Bloomfield home. He was survived by his wife and four children.

On Sept. 11, an estimated 1,000-1,500 people crowded the West Bloomfield Police Department parking lot to pay their respects during an evening candlelight vigil. In October, the Township Board of Trustees voted to retroactively promote Patrick O’Rourke to sergeant.

• Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital officially opened its new greenhouse Sept. 15. The $1 million project was designed to teach people about healthy eating and how to grow organic vegetables for patients’ meals.

• The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education voted Sept. 24 to close Ealy Elementary School by the fall of 2013. The plan is part of a strategy to consolidate school facilities and save money, as enrollment is projected to decline.

October
• A West Bloomfield Lakers football player was kicked off his team after he allegedly punched a Stoney Creek Cougars assistant coach Oct. 5 in Rochester Hills, police and school officials said.

• The Walled Lake Consolidated School District implemented “shelter in place” restrictions at its Wixom schools for a few days in October that kept students indoors and kept doors locked. The decision came amid reports of a gunman attacking people and cars in Wixom and along the I-96 freeway.

• A Walled Lake Western High School teacher was suspended after allegedly revealing to students a Web history containing an “adult” website reference. The Walled Lake Consolidated School District declined to name the teacher, though it later announced that the employee was no longer working there.

November
• Diane Rosenfeld Swimmer was elected as a newcomer to the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees, and Julie Beaty was elected to the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education. Keego Harbor’s John Newberry, Orchard Lake’s Jason Silver and Sylvan Lake’s Eucharist Cassar were elected as newcomers to their respective city councils. Republican Klint Kesto won the 39th District state House of Representatives race.

• The Walled Lake Consolidated School District’s 10-year proposal for a 0.5-mill building and site sinking fund millage passed with a vote of 61.5-38.5 percent Nov. 6.

• Samir Hannawa of West Bloomfield was reportedly shot dead Nov. 7 while visiting a Detroit collision shop. He left behind his wife and seven children. No suspects had been arrested at press time.

• The Sylvan Lake City Council voted 4-0 Nov. 14 to make an agreement with the Road Commission for Oakland County to build a Clinton River Trail crossing with the HAWK system on Orchard Lake Road. According to the city, Tri-Party funds and private money would pay for it.

• The Township Board of Trustees voted 6-0 Nov. 19 to approve the installation of an electric-vehicle charging station west of Town Hall, near the West Bloomfield Township Public Library’s Main Branch. The station will let drivers recharge their electric vehicles for a small fee.

December
• The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education approved a plan Dec. 17 to have residents vote May 7 on a building and site sinking fund millage proposal. The plan would levy 1.25 mills throughout 14 years, if voters approve. Voters rejected a 1.5-mill proposal in November.

• Alumni of the Detroit Red Wings played hockey for charity Dec. 21 at Compuware Arena in Plymouth. All proceeds will go to the Patrick O’Rourke Family Trust to help the family of Sgt. Patrick O’Rourke.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.