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Oakland Township, Rochester, Rochester Hills

January 2, 2013

Hit the road 2012

By Linda Shepard and Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writers

» click to enlarge «
Paul Ryan shakes the hand of Kid Rock at Oakland University Oct. 8.

Bridge and road construction dominated the Post’s news in 2012. Two Rochester Hills’ bridge replacements over the Clinton River — on Livernois and Avon roads — closed the roads to all traffic for approximately four months each. A Crooks Road widening project featured intermittent road closures. The year marked the completion of a major reconstruction project on Main Street in downtown Rochester, various new developments in all of our communities, and many changes in leadership.

Here’s a look at the most noteworthy local events:

January
• Owners of Rochester Mills Beer Co. announced they were expanding product offerings and distribution of brands beyond the brewpub in downtown Rochester, thanks to the new 48,000-square-foot Rochester Mills Production Brewery in Auburn Hills.

• Rochester Community Schools district kicked off 2012 by swearing in two newly elected board members — Jane Pierobon and Pat Piskulich — and one re-elected board member, Beth Talbert, during a special meeting Jan. 4.

• The Avondale Board of Education nominated and elected its officers for 2012. Sid Lockhart was elected board president, Sean Johnson was named vice president, Stephen Sucher was elected secretary and Scott Bittinger was named treasurer.

• Based on the 2010 U.S. census, Rochester learned it was entitled to eight Class C liquor licenses, an addition of one since the last census, according to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. The liquor license was eventually given to Shehrzad Mediterranean Grill.

• The 2012 Older Persons’ Commission operating budget was slated to take effect Jan. 1, but the three communities responsible for passing the budget — Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township — still could not agree on a budget. On Jan. 23, the Rochester City Council passed a second alternative budget that would provide a 1 percent, one-time bonus to all OPC employees but still eliminate step increases, reduce payments in lieu of health care benefits from $84,000 to $3,000, and maintain the previously agreed upon pension program. In May, the Rochester City Council sought the attorney general’s opinion in the matter. In September, the Rochester City Council approved the 2013 OPC operating budget. Four days later, the Rochester City Council received a letter in response to their inquiry from Chief Legal Council Richard Bandstra, on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office, that described the provisions of the Uniform Budgeting an Accounting Act and ramifications of violators, but did not give an official opinion on the matter.

• Rapper, actor, author and activist Common delivered a message about “achieving greatness” at Oakland University Jan. 16. “The great ones like Martin Luther King Jr. are an inspiration to yourself and others,” he said at OU’s 20th annual Keeper of the Dream scholarship awards celebration. “You have to find your path, believe and live it.”

• The first of two significant bridge closings occurred when the five-lane bridge over the Clinton River on Avon Road, near Livernois, closed Feb. 13 to all traffic while the bridge was replaced. Three lanes of the bridge were previously closed due to a structural deficiency.

February
• The Fire & Ice Festival was held a month later than usual, due to the unseasonably mild winter.

• The city of Rochester was one of five communities chosen by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson  to be “One Stop Ready,” a new pilot program that aims to streamline the process of moving a business project from concept to reality to attract more development. Ferndale, Lyon Township, Oxford and Wixom were also selected.

• In an effort to reduce costs outside the classroom, the Rochester Community Schools district agreed to participate in an energy cost-savings program with Energy Education Inc. for a minimum of five years. The program, which was projected to save the district $9.8 million throughout a 10-year period, involved better managing of school equipment systems and reducing consumptions of electricity, natural gas and water.

• The Rochester City Council unanimously approved the Compensation Commission’s recommendation that the mayor and council members take a $10 reduction in pay per meeting, saving the city roughly $3,500 per year.

• The Avondale School District and the Rochester Community School District once again beat state proficiency averages for all tested subjects on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.

• Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson named Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett one of his “Elite 40 Under 40” winners at Patterson’s State of the County address Feb. 8.

• An adaptive reuse project for the calf barn at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm began. When completed in 2013, the calf barn will hold the community’s collections and archives.

March
• The city of Rochester announced it was looking for volunteers for a new Community Emergency Response Team, which would support first responders in the event of an emergency, if the city were unable to meet the demand for fire and medical services.

• A 30-day public review period kicked off for Rochester’s five-year Parks and Recreation Master Plan draft. The master plan — which adds an amphitheatre to Municipal Park, a more developed concept plan for Howlett Park, a new plan for the Rochester Community Garden and much more — was approved in May.

• The Rochester Hills Public Library’s first early literacy vehicle, called The Big Blue Bus, hit the streets, thanks to a donation from the Doris and Charles Edie Estate.

• Stoney Creek High School celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

• The city of Rochester approved an agreement with the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority to allow residents to unload hazardous waste and electronics year round.

• The Rochester Community Schools Board of Education approved a new recycling program to kick off in nine schools  — Delta Kelly, McGregor and North Hill elementary schools; Hart Van Hoosen and West middle schools; and all three high schools.

• Meadow Brook Hall, the opulent former home of Matilda and Alfred Wilson, was named a National Historic Landmark. “We are thrilled and honored to receive the NHL designation from the National Park Service,” said Geoff Upward, executive director of MBH.

• The area’s unusually warm winter weather hindered maple sugar production. “The trees stopped producing sap a week ago,” said Pat McKay, Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm director, March 17. “This is the worst year ever for the maple sugar industry. It is supposed to be cold and snowy now.”

April
• Members of a residential group opposing the Blossom Ridge senior living community, proposed for the corner of Dutton and Adams in Oakland Township, reached a temporary compromise with developer Dominic Moceri. The Blossom Ridge development aims to feature duplex, attached, independent-living and assisted-living units on 42 acres.

• Five teenagers were arrested in connection with malicious Oakland Township park destruction. Marsh View Park, Draper Lake Park and Bear Creek Park saw acts of vandalism during the months of March, April and May.

• Construction crews began working in downtown Rochester April 2, kicking off the $7.6 million reconstruction project commonly known as the Main Street Makeover. The project, which took place through November, was a joint effort of the Michigan Department of Transportation, the city of Rochester and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority. The purpose of the project was to reconstruct Main Street from the Clinton River Bridge to the Paint Creek Bridge, improve water service to the area and add streetscape improvements downtown. Throughout the project, various historical items were discovered, including the original 1916 brick road surface, a portion of the old Detroit United Railway tracks, human remains linked to a prehistoric burial, old documents from the former Kroger Grocery & Baking Co., coins and many other items. On Nov. 21, all five lanes of Main Street were reopened to traffic two days earlier than expected.

• The Rochester Community Schools District Board of Education voted to outsource transportation, custodial and partial grounds services at the end of the school year — a move that sent pink slips to 250 people and was expected to save the district an estimated $11.7 million throughout the next three years. Durham School Services was selected to provide transportation, and GCA Education Services was chosen to handle custodial and partial grounds services.

• The city of Rochester began filming a monthly show called “Rochester Report,” designed to showcase the city’s commitment to economic development, which aired on the Community Media Network TV channel, as well as on the city’s website.

May
• Rochester Avon Recreation Authority Executive Director Ron Jewell announced RARA would soon move to a new, expanded headquarters — a 34,000-square-foot property at 500 E. Second St. in Rochester. RARA opened the doors to its new facility in November.

• A flock of more than two dozen star-studded sheep hit the streets of downtown Rochester as part of the Ewe Revue 2 public art project.

• Approximately 17 of 21 schools in the Rochester Community Schools district were recognized as Michigan Green Schools for 2011-12. 

• Adams High School was given a silver medal and named the 18th best high school in the state, as part of the U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best High Schools listing. Rochester High School placed 37th in the state. Stoney Creek High was not ranked.

• The Rochester Hills Public Library launched a new digital branch, www.ebranch.rhpl.org, making digital materials accessible to all library cardholders.

• Motorists suffered through several major road projects, including two bridge replacements over the Clinton River that coincided with Rochester’s Main Street Makeover. The Avon Road bridge replacement was on schedule for completion in mid June. In July, the Livernois bridge construction was scheduled to begin.

• In an ongoing effort to restore the historic buildings at Oakland Township’s Cranberry Lake Park, a silo roof was scheduled for replacement. “The silo was built in 1930,” said Tammis Donaldson, principal architect for Ekocite Architecture of Royal Oak, architect of the new roof.

June
• The owner of a Toyota Tundra truck saw his truck stolen and returned four times in several weeks. A teenager was arrested in connection with the truck thefts and admitted to breaking into at least 60 vehicles since February.

• A fire destroyed six condominiums in a 12-unit building off Adams Road, north of Hamlin Road, June 13.

• The Paint Creek Center for the Arts recognized eight individuals and one organization that encourage art and culture in their communities during the second annual Regional Arts & Culture Awards program.

• Hundreds rallied to fight cancer during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Greater Rochester June 23 at Hart Middle School.

• After discussing the possibility of forming a district library, Rochester Hills Public Library officials decided to shelve the plan, due to what they said are too many ambiguities and omissions in the current library law for library board members to be comfortable making the change in structure.

• JHP Pharmaceuticals, which provides contract manufacturing of sterile products for pharmaceutical and biotech organizations, broke ground on an $8 million laboratory expansion at its Rochester manufacturing facility.

July
• Bentley Property Holdings LLC began work renovating the historic Chapman House, 311 Walnut Blvd., and converting it into a mixed-use facility that will include a restaurant serving French-inspired cuisine and alcohol, a retail area for specialty foods, and an outdoor gathering space.

• Avondale School District and Rochester Community School District students beat most state proficiency averages on the Michigan Merit Exam, despite more rigorous cut scores.

• Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Fred Clarke informed the RCS Board of Education that he would be seeing other employment opportunities for “professional growth and development” after just one year with the district. Retired Oakland Intermediate School District Deputy Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg was named interim superintendent. In December, the Board of Education selected four candidates to move forward in the interview process for the vacant superintendent position. Initial interviews will take place Monday, Jan. 7, and Wednesday, Jan. 9, starting at 7 p.m. in the Harrison Room, located in the Administration Center, 501 W. University in Rochester.

• Crooks Road motorists were on the lookout for intermittent closures during an upcoming construction project widening Crooks to five lanes between Star Batt and Hamlin roads.

• The Avon Road bridge opened to traffic July 27. The Livernois bridge closed to all traffic July 9. “This is the most talked-about intersection in our community,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said. “It is the geographic center of the community.”

August
• A new nature center project began at Long Lake Park in Oakland Township. Renovation included construction of public restrooms and classrooms. A lakeside dock was planned for fishing, boating and wildlife observation.

• The Aug. 7 primary election named Terry Gonser the new Oakland Township supervisor — unseating incumbent Joan Fogler. Karen Reilly is the new township clerk, and Jeanne Langlois is the new township treasurer. Newly elected Oakland Township trustees Maureen Thalmann and Judy Keyes join incumbent trustees Michael Bailey and Sharon McKay.

• Rochester Hills and Oakland Township voters approved police funding and historic preservation ballot questions.

• The city of Rochester was named one of the top five places in the state for social seekers to live, courtesy of Coldwell Banker.

•  For the second year, the Rochester Downtown Development Authority took part in Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, a national effort that encouraged Americans to host bake sales in their communities to support the No Kid Hungry Campaign, the nonprofit’s national effort to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

• The Rochester Community School District and Avondale School District made Adequate Yearly Progress once again, as districts.

• Revolutionary War veterans Benjamin Loomis and George Horton were remembered with a special grave rededication ceremony — organized by the Oaks Chapter of Sons of the American Revolution, the Stoney Creek Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Rochester-Avon Historical Society and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — at Mount Avon Cemetery in Rochester Aug. 18.

September
• Rochester Community Schools and Avondale Schools began the 2012-13 school year with new all-day kindergarten programs.

• Thousands filled Rochester’s Municipal Park for the 47th annual Arts and Apples Festival Sept. 7-9.

• The Rochester-Avon Historical Society received a State History Award in the category of “Communications: Newsletters and Websites” for its new website, www.oaklandregionalhistoric sites.org, which was recognized as serving as a “valuable tool for government officials, real estate professionals and history enthusiasts” because it “supports local history education, raises awareness of historic preservation and promotes heritage tourism.”

• Oakland University’s new Human Health building opened. The 172,000-square foot building holds OU’s School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences. The $64.4 million facility features state-of-the-art classrooms, seminar rooms, an interactive media center, physical therapy clinics, and clinical, computer, simulation and distance learning labs.

October
• Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan talked about jobs and strong manufacturing for economic relief at Oakland University Oct. 8.  “When we grew up, you thought you could have the same job your entire life. That’s what our parents had,” said Republican vice presidential nominee Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate against President Barack Obama in Romney’s bid for the White House.

• The Rochester Hills Fire Department received three new pet oxygen mask kits to aid pets suffering from smoke inhalation after a donation from the Michigan Humane Society. According to Michigan Human Society President Cal Morgan, six out of 10 residents nationally have an animal in their home.

• A $90,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant cleared the third and final phase of the ongoing Avon Creek restoration project for completion — aiming to reverse a trend of loss of fish and wildlife habitat and reductions in fish populations.

• Rochester Community Schools counted 14,781 students in school on Count Day, Oct. 3, which was an increase from the 14,766 officials had projected.

• The Rochester Hills Public Library became the new home of the Oakland Talking Book Service, which circulates Braille and audio materials to eligible borrowers by postage-free mail.

November
• The Paint Creek Center for the Arts celebrated its 30th anniversary.

• The buildings in downtown Rochester glimmered with more than 1.5 million points of holiday light during the kickoff of the Big, Bright Light Show Nov. 26.

• Rochester Community Schools Board of Education Trustee Gerald Moore announced his resignation due to an increase in work-related travel. In December, Michael Zabat, a Stoney Creek High School parent with a background in aerodynamics engineering, was selected as his replacement.

• Stuart Bikson was elected by his fellow council members to serve as the new mayor for Rochester. Jeffrey Cuthbertson was elected mayor pro tem.

• The Michigan Science Teachers Association named Hart Middle School teacher Monica Harvey the 2012 Michigan Middle School Science Teacher of the Year.

• The Michigan Association of Media in Education selected Rochester High School Media Specialist Julie Harris as the 2012 Michigan School Librarian of the Year.

• Rochester Community Schools was one of 539 schools in the nation, and one of 39 in the state, named to the College Board’s third annual AP Honor Roll.

• The Livernois Road bridge over the Clinton River opened to traffic after many months of weight restrictions, limited lane use and a complete bridge rebuild. The road closed to all traffic in July, when the old bridge was demolished and construction of the new bridge began.

• Sixty-two percent of Rochester Hills voters approved a Nov. 6 ballot question for the repurposing of an expiring drain-bond millage. The expiring millage of 0.4855 mill will be used for maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction of local roads and streets.

December
• Resident Nicole Bernstein, 9, donated a new pottery statue with $40 of her own money after the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm Children’s Garden was vandalized. Vandals destroyed pottery animal statues, light fixtures and a footbridge railing.

• Oakland University officials announced that a new $30 million student housing facility will open in 2014. The OU Board of Trustees initiated the design process for a new campus housing facility that will accommodate up to 550 students.

• The Rochester Community Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to begin a limited Schools of Choice program for the second semester of the 2012-13 year, opening three spaces for full enrollment at the Alternative Center for Education and three in the Seat Time Waiver program — an online learning program administrated by ACE that allows flexibility for students who cannot attend school on a traditional schedule.

• Nina Ignaczak and Jessica Opfer were honored with Good Neighbor Awards by the city of Rochester’s City Beautiful Commission for their dedication to Howlett Park, a passive park at the corner of Inglewood Street and Romeo Road.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Linda Shepard at lshepard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1065.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.