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Macomb Township

January 2, 2013

Growth continues in 2012

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Growth continues in 2012
Macomb Township firefighters fight the wind while bringing down the American flag after the first annual Veterans Day ceremony held Nov. 9. The half-hour event provided time for Macomb Township residents to acknowledge the sacrifices made by veterans and the township’s first responders.

In 2012, CNN’s Money magazine honored the growth and financial stability of Macomb when it named the township one of the best small towns in the country. It cited the township’s house values, low crime rate and the local government’s $30 million rainy-day fund as the reasons for the ranking. After the recession slowed housing construction during the last decade, 2012 saw the township surpass the previous year’s number of new homes constructed for the fourth consecutive year.

The year was also defined by tumultuous local politics. Township residents watched the Aug. 7 primary turn nasty when, days before the election, a Macomb resident filed a lawsuit claiming Macomb officials had committed election fraud. The lawsuit, which is still in courts today, became a dividing point between the incumbents running for local office and their opponents.

Here is a look at the most noteworthy events in 2012:

January
• Macomb resident Joshua Roberts, 15, was named the Civil Air Patrol Cadet of the Year for 2011 and was given the Veterans of Foreign Wars Award for Outstanding Cadet Noncommissioned Officer.

• Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Jan. 23 to begin offering all-day kindergarten for the first time, starting in the 2012-13 school year.

February
• The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 35-year-old caregiver who set fire to a Card Road home Feb. 1. Dujuan Edward Smith set fire to the house after having an altercation with a 55-year-old woman for whom he was caring. Before setting fire to the home, he assaulted the woman. Smith confessed to both crimes and pleaded guilty to both arson and domestic violence charges in July.

• Macomb Township resident Frank Cusmano asked the Township Board of Trustees to establish a “scrapper” ordinance. The ordinance, he proposed, would require those who look through residential and commercial trash for scrap metal to be registered and wear identification. He made the request at a February board meeting, after a middle-aged man who was going through trash began to follow his daughter home from school.

• Students in the Chippewa Valley Schools scored on par with or higher than statewide scores for proficiency on the 2011 Michigan Education Assessment Program test under the state’s rigorous new “cut scores” system.

• After an extensive search and multiple rounds of interviews with 60 candidates, the L’Anse Creuse Board of Education voted on Feb. 13 to hire Jacqueline Johnston as their new superintendent of schools, taking the reins from beloved superintendent DiAnne Pellerin, who announced her impending retirement in 2011. Johnston had been working for many years as superintendent of Huron Valley in Oakland County when she applied for the position in Macomb County. She started her duties as the district’s leader when school commenced in September.

• Township Supervisor Mark Grabow lauded both new and expanding businesses that have chosen to call the township home during his Feb. 24 State of the Township address. “Macomb Township has had a fantastic year. We’re not reactive to the economies of the local areas — responsive to needs of Macomb Township,” Grabow said.

• Of the 17 percent of Macomb Township voters who showed at the polls for the Republican primary Feb. 28, more than 4,000 preferred former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over his party colleagues. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was second with 2,969 votes.

March
• On March 5, the CVS Board of Education named Sibley as the new principal of Dakota High School. Sibley began his career at Chippewa Valley Schools as a kindergartener at Miami Elementary more than two decades ago.

• Grabow was rushed to the hospital after fainting minutes before the March 28 Board of Trustees meeting. He returned to work four days later.

April
• During their regular meeting on April 16, the L’Anse Creuse Board of Education approved implementing a pay-to-participate sports program, which became effective during the 2012-13 school year as a way to generate additional funds during the state’s tough economic times. The program affects middle school and high school students who are selected to participate on a school-based sports team. However, the pay-to-participate sports program will be examined again next year, and the Board of Education will decide whether to continue or sack the program.

• Greg Stone, a retired 35-year veteran of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office and a Macomb resident, filed in April to run against Sheriff Anthony Wickersham in the Aug. 7 primary election, citing the county’s “tough public safety challenges.”

He lost to Wickersham, also a Macomb resident, who went on to defeat both Republican and Libertarian challengers in the Nov. 6 general election.

• Students and staff at Oxford Academy Montessori in Macomb Township spent one hour jump roping to fight cancer on April 19. The funds they collected went to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of the academy’s Program Director Tony Partyka, who was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia last year.

May
• The 14 candidates who filed to run for various Macomb Township positions all registered as Republican in May, meaning the Aug. 7 primary would decide the winners of several local positions. Grabow, the incumbent supervisor who ran as a Democrat in 2008, registered as a Republican to face off against Trustee Janet Dunn and Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Missig in the primary.

• At their May 21 meeting, the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education remembered Cassie Kennedy, a 15-year-old student at Chippewa Valley High School, who died May 15. She succumbed to a two-year battle with brain cancer.

“You think of the things we quarrel over,” said Superintendent Ronald Roberts, who attended her funeral. “And then you go to something like this, and you really see what’s important.”

• The Board of Trustees voted to reinstate an architect to enforce stringent zoning ordinances on houses being built within Macomb’s Town Center neighborhood.

When the Town Center was designed in the 2002 Macomb Township Master Plan, it strictly zoned the style of homes being built in the area between 24 Mile and 25 Miles roads. When both residents and developers complained about the stringent rules, architect John Dziurman’s authority was removed, the codes were relaxed and a new developer — Leone Construction — bought the land.

When Town Center residents realized the homes Leone Construction was constructing looked like all other subdivision homes, they asked the board to reinstate Dziurman’s authority.

June
• Kroger Michigan honored Sue Ellen Kosmas, a Macomb resident and founder of the ConKerr Cancer Detroit chapter, with the 2012 Community Service Award on June 5. Kosmas and her several volunteers make customized pillowcases for children in hospitals who are undergoing cancer treatment.

• The Detroit Goodfellows named Mark Ragis, a Detroit teacher from Macomb, the Goodfellow Teacher of the Year June 8 during a surprise announcement at Clippert Academy in Mexicantown. “It makes you feel the things that you are doing matter,” Ragis said of the honor.

• The Board of Trustees approved amendments to the township’s zoning rules on June 13, allowing the sale of large-scale fireworks. The amendments were mandatory under the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act passed in 2011 by the state Legislature. It prevents local ordinances from zoning against the sale of large-scale fireworks or fireworks that leave the ground, which were previously illegal to sell in the state.

The board revisited the measure later in the month, after residents complained of neighbors shooting fireworks throughout the night. The board placed new regulations on when fireworks could be discharged legally at their June 27 meeting.

• Macomb hosted its first 5k run along Romeo Plank Road on June 30. Run organizer Mike Fontana said 918 runners participated in the race between 21 Mile and 24 Mile roads.

July
• Lightning struck three Macomb Township homes, setting each of them ablaze July 3. The incidents occurred within minutes of each other, forcing the Macomb Township Fire Department to call for backup from neighboring communities. Of the three separate incidents, one man was taken to the hospital after saving a neighbor whose house was on fire.

• The U.S. Coast Guard rescued two Macomb Township men and two children early July 10 from Lake Huron, after they spent 14 hours in the water, according to a Coast Guard press release.

• A Macomb Township resident filed a lawsuit July 19, alleging election fraud on the part of Township Clerk Michael Koehs and current Supervisor Janet Dunn, who, then as a trustee, was a candidate for the position at that time. The two-count lawsuit claimed Koehs first accepted fraudulent signatures on Dunn’s nominating petitions. Secondly, the lawsuit claimed Koehs was illegally withholding a letter written by a former, part-time township employee, claiming he was forced to quit after refusing to sign nominating petitions.

The Chronicle published a story showing that dates and facts in the first count of the lawsuit didn’t line up with township records. A week later, a recording between Grabow and the former employee surfaced, revealing that the employee was not forced to resign.

• In an attempt to refocus its service efforts in Macomb Township, the Rotary Club held a grand opening July 31 for the rebranding of its five-year-old chapter, which opened in 2007 as the Clinton Rotary Club and was later renamed the Clinton-Macomb Rotary Club. It is now officially known solely as Macomb Rotary Club.

August
• Dunn defeated Grabow during the Aug. 7 primary election. Because all candidates running for the position filed as Republicans, Dunn was expected to run unopposed in the November general election. Grabow re-entered the race in October as a write-in candidate but lost in the Nov. 6 election.

• Koehs filed a countersuit against Mark Maiuri, the Macomb resident who filed a lawsuit in July, claiming Koehs committed election fraud. In his countersuit, Koehs alleges Maiuri and other unnamed conspirators used the lawsuit to influence the primary election.

The matter is still in court today.

• Its large rainy-day fund, low taxes and high house values led CNN’s Money magazine to name Macomb Township as one of the best places to live in America. The magazine ranked Macomb at No. 84 in the country.

• The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $326,000 bid on Aug. 22 from a Grand Rapids company for the upgrade to the township’s backup servers and communication systems.

• The Board of Trustees essentially ended the possibility of a SMART-funded pole barn, in which to house the township’s three Dial-A-Ride buses. The issue was a long-time point of contention between Grabow, who wanted the project, and the Board of Trustees, whose members believed it was a waste of grant money.

September
• The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office charged a 44-year-old township man with a bank robbery in Macomb Township. Macomb County deputies arrested Frederick J. Huggins on Sept. 5 for the robbery, after an anonymous caller provided a tip to his whereabouts, according to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with one felony count of bank robbery.

On Aug. 31, Huggins allegedly entered the Flagstar Bank at 20355 Hall Road, walked to one of the tellers and passed them a note asking for money, authorities said. Authorities allege Huggins then fled the scene on a bicycle with an undisclosed amount of money. He was found in his home less than a mile away from the bank, the Sheriff’s Office said.

• A jury found Joseph Reiner guilty Sept. 14 of murdering 69-year-old JoAnn Eisenhardt at her Macomb home in 2011. Reiner was sentenced Nov. 14 to life without parole.

• Macomb Township outpaced 2011 in new home construction by September 2012. Developers filed 424 new residential permits through September 2012 in Macomb, according to data collected by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. The number eclipsed 2011’s total of 389.

October
• The Board of Trustees approved a series of resolutions Oct. 10 that expanded SMART transportation service, allowing the township to better service both senior citizens and adult special-needs students.

• With a few extra feet of pavement now in place along North Avenue, a five-year ordeal between the owners of a local bar and the township ended in October. Cathy and Mary Jo Imbronone, owners of Tavern at Tina’s and Tina’s Country House, completed a court-ordered bypass lane before the Oct. 15 deadline.

Macomb County Circuit Court Judge James Biernat ordered the two sisters at a Sept. 25 hearing to meet the deadline or face the closure of their bar. It was the final chapter in a legal battle between Macomb Township and the two owners, dating back to 2007, when the Imbronones bought the tavern.

November
• The township sent out more than 12,000 absentee ballots, a record, said Koehs. Considering Macomb has 54,000 voters, the figure means nearly a quarter of the township voted absentee for the Nov. 6 election.
• The Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education declined Nov. 5 to vote on reinstating busing to St. Thecla and St. Luke schools, reaffirming its decision to end transportation to the private schools two years ago.

For more than 40 years, CVS bused students living within its boundaries to the two schools, which are located just outside the district. In 1966, residents of the district voted to mandate that CVS bus the private schools’ students. But citing budgetary shortfalls, the board voted to end transportation to the schools in 2010 — a decision parents and parishioners of St. Thecla have called illegal because of the previous popular vote.

December
• L’Anse Creuse Public Schools was honored by the College Board this month with placement on their third annual AP District Honor Roll for their continued achievements in their Advanced Placement (AP) programs. Since 2010, LCPS has increased the number of students participating in AP classes from 290 to 395, while improving the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher — from 48 percent to 54 percent. AP courses are offered at L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Township.and L’AnCreuse High School-Nortmb.

• In early December, educators at L’Anse Creuse High School-North announced that 20 male teachers raised nearly $5,000 during No-Shave November, a month-long fundraising event to aid the school’s Link Crew freshman-orientation program and the L’Anse Creuse Education Foundation. The teachers stopped shaving on Nov. 1, and the winner, Jay Seletsky, got rid of his facial hair after he was announced the winner on Dec. 5.

The Foundation later gave away $16,000 in teacher grants and will give $10,000 in scholarships this year.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.