On Oct. 23, a water main break on 14 Mile Road, between Farmington and Drake roads, was caused by overpressure. A boil water advisory for businesses and residents in multiple communities lasted several days.

On Oct. 23, a water main break on 14 Mile Road, between Farmington and Drake roads, was caused by overpressure. A boil water advisory for businesses and residents in multiple communities lasted several days.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Farmington community leaves ‘17, prepares for what’s to come

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published January 2, 2018

 Members of a search crew look through heavy brush July 19 at Hines Park in Livonia for evidence in the case of missing Farmington Hills woman Danielle Stislicki.

Members of a search crew look through heavy brush July 19 at Hines Park in Livonia for evidence in the case of missing Farmington Hills woman Danielle Stislicki.

File photo by Sean Work

 State Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, and Diane Bauman, director of school and community relations for Farmington Public Schools, arrive at the 150th anniversary gala at the Governor Warner Mansion Aug. 12. The Miss Farmington court, right, greets guests.

State Rep. Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, and Diane Bauman, director of school and community relations for Farmington Public Schools, arrive at the 150th anniversary gala at the Governor Warner Mansion Aug. 12. The Miss Farmington court, right, greets guests.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 A major windstorm in March caused the worst power outage in DTE Energy’s history.

A major windstorm in March caused the worst power outage in DTE Energy’s history.

File photo by Tiffany Esshaki

 Farmington Hills resident Muhammad Al-Tantawi is a suspect in the Aug. 28 murder of his mother, Nada Huranieh.

Farmington Hills resident Muhammad Al-Tantawi is a suspect in the Aug. 28 murder of his mother, Nada Huranieh.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Principal Dyanne Sanders cuts the ribbon to celebrate the official opening of Farmington STEAM Academy Oct. 12.

Principal Dyanne Sanders cuts the ribbon to celebrate the official opening of Farmington STEAM Academy Oct. 12.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

 A fire at a Farmington Hills couple’s home on Quaker Valley Road, near Farmington Road, Nov. 12 sparked a discussion on solutions for fire hydrant scarcity in a subdivision on well water.

A fire at a Farmington Hills couple’s home on Quaker Valley Road, near Farmington Road, Nov. 12 sparked a discussion on solutions for fire hydrant scarcity in a subdivision on well water.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 From the left, Leland Bassett, of Farmington Hills; Tom Lederman, of Farmington; Kelli Carpenter-Crawford, of Farmington Hills; and her daughter, Maddi Carpenter-Crawford, 16, take part in a rally Sept. 18 at East Middle School days after an EMS sixth-grader reported being mistreated twice over not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

From the left, Leland Bassett, of Farmington Hills; Tom Lederman, of Farmington; Kelli Carpenter-Crawford, of Farmington Hills; and her daughter, Maddi Carpenter-Crawford, 16, take part in a rally Sept. 18 at East Middle School days after an EMS sixth-grader reported being mistreated twice over not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

File photo by Sean Work

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — The new year, for many, is a fresh start — or a sigh of relief. 

But before you place 2017 on the back burner and review your 2018 resolutions, take a look at several events — some political, some emotional — that helped shape the Farmington area over the past year.

 

High-powered winds impact Farmington, Hills
Residents couldn’t help but take notice of the high-powered, 60 mph winds that took metro Detroit by storm the afternoon of March 8. Efforts were made the following day to clean up the damage and to restore power to 800,000 Michigan customers impacted by what DTE Energy said was the single worst outage in its 100-year history.

The Road Commission for Oakland County reported that more than 600 trees blocked roadways following the storm, and 150 traffic signals were without power, which made commutes tough on drivers.

 

Farmington, mansion reflect on 150th anniversary
Last year marked the 150th year since the city’s incorporation in 1867. Farmington’s rich history spans even further, to its founding in 1824 — 194 years ago.

Farmington has grown around the heart of commercial activity along Grand River Avenue, once a main trail for American Indian tribes that originally inhabited the area.

The Governor Warner Mansion, built in 1867, celebrated its 150th year with an anniversary gala Aug. 12.

The mansion was completed in 1867 by P.D. Warner, father to Michigan’s 26th governor, Fred Warner.

The city’s history began when a 40-something-year-old Quaker man named Arthur Power, of Massachusetts, moved to the territory of Michigan in the early 1800s by way of New York and — several years later — founded the township of Farmington in 1824.

Farmington is the oldest community on the western side of Oakland County.

A number of people followed Power to Michigan, and many Quakers founded other places named Farmington throughout the country; there are 13 Farmingtons across the United States. Many of them were founded by Quakers. 

 

Student leaves school after Pledge of Allegiance incident
An East Middle School sixth-grader left Farmington Public Schools following accusations that two teachers handled him inappropriately after he chose not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance Sept. 7 and 8.

A teacher was then placed on paid administrative leave while the district investigated the matter. Updates on the teachers’ statuses could not be confirmed by press time. 

Diane Bauman, director, of community relations, said in an email that the names of the teachers cannot be released.

Father Brian Chaney spoke to the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education during a Sept. 12 study session about the two incidents. Chaney said his son chose to not stand for the pledge because it goes against his beliefs.

He said that his son was snatched violently from his chair and made to stand for the pledge.

Chaney called the teachers’ actions a violation of his son’s civil rights. Board President David Turner said that they would investigate the matter and that Chaney did the right thing by bringing it to officials’ attention. Bauman confirmed that one full-time teacher was suspended during the investigation, and a substitute is no longer subbing in the school district. 

On the national scene, various National Football League players took a knee during the national anthem to express their opinions on police brutality and racism in the country. Locally, a rally was held outside the school Sept. 18 in support of the student’s decision to not stand for the pledge. Chaney’s Detroit-based attorney, Leonard Mungo, said recently that progress is being made on behalf of the family, and he is in discussion with the school district; he did not elaborate on what, exactly, they are discussing.

 

Courthouse redevelopment features 14 new homes
After about 14 years of little to no economic redevelopment, the former 47th District Court property will see some changes through a new buyer, Boji Development Inc.

The Farmington City Council approved an offer of $250,000 from Boji Development — a Farmington Hills-based company — in a 4-0 vote Oct. 2; Mayor Pro Tem Steven Schneemann recused himself from the vote due to a conflict of interest. 

The over 3-acre former 47th District Court property — located on 10 Mile Road, east of Farmington Road — is slated to be home to 14 detached single-family homes. According to a press release, the purchase price assumes that the developer will be responsible for the demolition of the existing structures on the property.

Ranch- and colonial-style homes will range from 1,725 square feet to 2,805 square feet and will have between two and four bedrooms. The exterior of the homes will feature concrete composite siding and brick, according to the letter. Base pricing for the homes will start in the low $300,000 range.

The Farmington Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Jan. 8 at Farmington City Hall on the planned unit development proposal for the former 47th District Court site.

 

Road-funding ballot proposal language rejected
City officials in Farmington Hills are working with state legislators to try to draft and introduce new legislation after the state Attorney General’s Office rejected charter amendment ballot language in 2017.

Assistant City Manager Gary Mekjian said the ballot language sent to the state Attorney General’s Office in October was designed to exempt property owners currently involved in an active special assessment district from a pending road millage until their SAD has expired.

He said then that the city was waiting to hear back from state Attorney General Bill Schuette to see what options might be available.

Per the city’s directed special assessments for road improvements policy — approved by the City Council in April 2015 — local roads are given priority to be improved based on a pavement condition rating and a number of other factors, like housing density, Department of Public Works upkeep and public interest.

Under that road improvements policy, the city is responsible for paying 20 percent, while residents in the assessment district pay 80 percent of the project cost. Paying for roads through SADs has been in the city charter since the city’s inception, officials said, though the criteria for ranking road repair needs changed recently, which has caused contention among some residents facing assessments.

Mekjian said in a follow-up email recently that as a result of the ballot language issue, the mayor and other members of the City Council are currently working with state legislators in an attempt to draft and introduce new legislation that would address the concerns of the Attorney General’s Office. 

Those efforts are ongoing, he said, adding that in the event that legislation is not drafted in a timely fashion, the City Council has directed staff to develop alternate options for road funding.

 

FPS opens up Farmington STEAM Academy
Farmington STEAM Academy, 32800 W. 12 Mile Road, celebrated its grand opening Oct. 12 with community members, students and families from other FPS schools. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, which are the emphasis for Farmington STEAM Academy, a project-based-learning school.

Farmington STEAM Academy, known as FSA, was formerly Dunckel Middle School, which had its last day June 17.

The Farmington Public Schools Board of Education voted to close Harrison High School and repurpose Dunckel Middle School as a kindergarten through eighth-grade STEAM academy after weighing conversations with the community for several months.

The board voted 4-3 to close Dunckel Middle School and the Highmeadow Common Campus. Highmeadow Common Campus students were moved to the new school and added students from across the district through a lottery process.

The no votes came from Trustees Terri Weems, Sheilah Clay — now a former trustee — and Terry Johnson. 

Before the vote, Weems said during the meeting that she is supportive of the STEAM program but that it is important to look at programming holistically — not one building or location, but all schools — and that a central location of the program was “not compelling.”

The other two members had concerns over moving students around, increasing the capacity for middle schools as enrollment drops.

Dunckel, which opened in 1957, had 749 students on its last day.

During the grand opening for FSA, tours were given and attendees visited a lab, a makerspace, a think tank, the school’s performing arts stage, the courtyard, a loft, the gym and more. 

This year, FSA opened to students in kindergarten through seventh grade; in 2018, FSA will add students in eighth grade.

FSA has a heavy focus on collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and self-management, according to a press release.

 

Teen charged in mother’s death
A 16-year-old boy charged with the death of his mother in August was bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court after a preliminary examination Dec. 8 in the 47th District Court.

Judge Marla Parker determined that there was enough probable cause in the case to bind over Muhammad Al-Tantawi, who was charged as an adult Aug. 28 in the 47th District Court in connection with the death of his mother, Nada Huranieh.

Al-Tantawi’s bond during the arraignment was denied, and he was ordered to be held at Children’s Village, according to a press release. 

Police and the Farmington Hills Fire Department responded to a 911 call at 6:40 a.m. Aug. 20 from a home on Howard Road — between Drake and Halsted roads — regarding Huranieh, 35, who was found to be unconscious.

The caller told first responders that the woman was the victim of an accident. Police and paramedics attempted to revive the woman, but were unsuccessful.

Detectives discovered evidence that signifying that her death was not the result of an accident, police said.  

A press release states that police and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office issued a complaint and warrant for second-degree murder for Al-Tantawi.

Al-Tantawi was later charged with murder in the first degree, premeditated; the felony is punishable by life without parole, or a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years — there is a maximum sentence of at least 60 years.

 

Family, investigators reflect on Stislicki case at one-year mark
Danielle Stislicki, 28, of Farmington Hills, has been missing since Dec. 2, 2016. Local and national police agencies have been conducting an investigation for the woman, who was last seen leaving MetLife in Southfield, her place of employment.  

The Farmington Hills Police Department worked with the Livonia Police Department in investigating the assault of a female jogger at Hines Park in Livonia, according to a previous report. 

The investigations could potentially be related, according to the report. Livonia police arrested a 30-year-old Berkley man, Floyd Galloway Jr., June 27 in connection with the attempted sexual assault in Livonia.

According to police, the detectives investigating the Stislicki case had spoken to Galloway in the past and had conducted searches at his Berkley home pertaining to Stislicki’s disappearance.

Galloway is a former security guard who worked for a contracted company that previously provided security at MetLife in Southfield. According to the release, Galloway was acquainted with Stislicki at work.

On Nov. 27, Galloway pleaded guilty to kidnapping, assault with intent to commit penetration and assault by strangulation in front of Judge Mark Slavens in the Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit. 

Slavens sentenced Galloway Dec. 8 to 16-35 years in prison for kidnapping, 6 1/2-10 years for kidnapping, and 6 1/2-10 years for assault with intent to commit penetration and assault by strangulation. He was also sentenced to lifetime on the sex offender registry.

Farmington Hills Police Lt. Paul Nicholas said recently that not much can be disclosed about the investigation into Stislicki’s disappearance, and the investigation is still ongoing.

Deputy Chief Nick Loussia, of the Southfield Police Department, said he could not comment on the nature of the investigation, as it is still ongoing.

 

Family seeks answers in cold case murder
The family of Darlene McKenzie is still seeking justice for the 15-year-old, who was killed in 1975.

McKenzie’s mother, Doris Leverett, and others spoke during a March 8 press conference at the Farmington Hills Police Department. 

In June 1975, employees of the Farmington Hills Department of Public Works found a young female’s remains in the area of Interstate 696, east of Haggerty Road, according to a press release. 

An investigation revealed that the person had been murdered by strangulation, but the identity remained unknown until 2016, when DNA linked the remains to McKenzie, a Detroit resident.

McKenzie’s daughter, Carlita Ransom — who was a 1-year-old at the time of her mother’s death — contacted the Detroit Police Department in 2015 to request another look at the cold case. Ransom and her grandmother submitted DNA samples to the Detroit Police Department, which sent them to NamUs — the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System in Texas. NamUs identified the remains found in Farmington Hills over four decades ago as McKenzie’s.

Police confirmed that a DNA match was made, but the Police Department doesn’t have much to go on. There are no new developments in the case, according to a follow-up email from Lt. Paul Nicholas, but it remains an open investigation. 

For more information, go to www.gofundme.com/dmckenzie.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Farmington Hills Police Department at (248) 871-2610.

Staff Writers Kayla Dimick and Tiffany Esshaki contributed to this report.