Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge
Published January 2, 2013
Sending off 2012 in style
By Jeremy Selweski jSelweski@candgnews.com
The world did not end on Dec. 21, as some had feared, but 2012 had much more to offer residents of the four Woodward Talk cities than simply defying doomsday predictions. In this highly contentious election year, local communities continued to move forward, inch by inch, hoping to put the struggles of the Great Recession behind them. It was a year in which slow-and-steady progress trumped monumental change, as the economy showed promising signs of recovery and city finances began to stabilize. By focusing on community and family, residents were able to enjoy “the new normal” of life in southeast Oakland County and look ahead to even brighter days.
Here’s a look back at the biggest local news stories from the past 12 months:
• On Jan. 2, Ferndale police arrested former Warren resident John Lee Westpfahl, 44, at the 8-Wood Motel on Eight Mile Road in connection with four bank robberies in three Metro Detroit cities. Westpfahl was suspected of robbing a Comerica Bank in Clinton Township Nov. 15, 2011; a Flagstar Bank in Birmingham Nov. 22, 2011; a Charter One Bank in Ferndale Dec. 6, 2011; and another Flagstar Bank in Birmingham Dec. 20, 2011. He pleaded guilty to the Ferndale bank robbery charge and was sentenced to 19 months-20 years in prison.
• The Rev. Mark Bidwell, former pastor of the Ferndale-based Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit and a former Ferndale police chaplain, suddenly passed away Jan. 3. He was 53. Bidwell was known for his philanthropic work in the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, but he had recently come under fire after a man died at his Ferndale home Sept. 21, 2011, from an overdose of crystal meth.
• The Ferndale City Council approved a new ordinance Jan. 9 allowing residents to keep and house up to three egg-laying hens on their property. The new policy decreased restrictions on raising fowl in the city, but it also required residents to obtain a $35 annual permit and get their chicken coops inspected every year.
• On Jan. 11, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Daniel P. O’Brien put an end to the 17-month saga of the Ferndale medical marijuana dispensary, Clinical Relief, by dismissing all charges in the case less than a week before the long-awaited trial was scheduled to begin. Nine Clinical Relief employees had been facing various drug and conspiracy charges since the facility was raided by the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team Aug. 25, 2010.
• On Jan. 20, members of the Detroit Tigers visited Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale as part of their 2012 Winter Caravan tour. A platoon of Tigers players, coaches, executives and broadcasters — including 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander — were in the house for a chips-and-salsa taste test, a question-and-answer session and a prize giveaway in front of about 150 energetic fans.
• The 11th annual Ferndale Blues & Music Festival was held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4. It featured local musicians performing at least 60 concerts at 24 venues in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Royal Oak Township, and served as a fundraiser for Ferndale Youth Assistance and the Michigan AIDS Coalition.
• Berkley Parks and Recreation hosted its second annual WinterFest event Jan. 28. The celebration featured an array of family-friendly activities in and around the Berkley Ice Arena, the Berkley Community Center and Community Park, including turkey bowling, a winter petting farm, kickball and broomball tournaments, a medieval armored combat demonstration, a craft show, open skating and an afterglow party at Hartfield Lanes.
• On Jan. 31, Shirley Ahlgrim, longtime administrative assistant to the Ferndale city manager, officially retired from the city. Ahlgrim, 67, had spent 25 years as an employee for the city of Hazel Park before coming to Ferndale in 1986 and contributing 25 more years of dedicated public service.
• The Woodward 5 cities — Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge — began working together with Oakland County on a long-term plan to improve the sustainability and environmental health of the region. The project included grant funding and services totaling $75,000 to go toward integrating economic, community and environmental goals, and identifying needs for advancing local sustainability via development of a strategic plan.
• On Feb. 7, an unknown man robbed the Huntington Bank on West Nine Mile Road in Ferndale for the second time in less than a month. Ferndale police were confident that this was the same suspect who robbed the bank Jan. 13, as well as the CVS Pharmacy on West Nine Mile Nov. 19, 2011.
• Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge reached an agreement to continue their 89-year partnership, in which Ferndale has provided fire protection and emergency medical services for Pleasant Ridge. The three-year contract — which runs from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2016 — was approved unanimously by the Ferndale City Council Feb. 13, while the Pleasant Ridge City Commission followed suit the next day.
• Michael Simeck, superintendent of the Berkley School District, announced Feb. 14 that he would be leaving the district after five years of service. The superintendent moved out of Michigan during the summer to take on a new leadership role in the suburbs of Chicago.
• The Ferndale Public Library’s month-long Ferndale Reads program kicked off Feb. 16. For adults, the 2012 program featured a variety of activities based on “The Local News” by Miriam Gershow, while kids could enjoy their own series of events, based on “Eleven” by Patricia Reilly Giff.
• On Feb. 20, three local Catholic churches announced that they would soon be partnering based on plans outlined by the Archdiocese of Detroit. Under these changes, St. James in Ferndale and Our Lady of Fatima in Oak Park will develop a strategy to merge, and then will become a “cluster” partner with Our Lady of La Salette in Berkley.
• Voters in Ferndale Public Schools overwhelmingly approved a proposed bond extension Feb. 28. Nearly 70 percent of those at the polls voted in favor of the $22.8 million proposal, which will generate funding for infrastructure improvements across the district during a 20-year period, especially at Ferndale High School and Ferndale Middle School. It will carry on the district’s existing 7-mill bond, which was set to expire in 2023, through approximately 2043.
• The state of Michigan ruled Feb. 29 that the Berkley 45-A and Oak Park 45-B district courts must combine as the two branches of the new 45th District Court beginning July 1 and reduce their collective number of judges from three to two through attrition. However, the state opted against a proposal to merge the 43rd District Court branches in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Madison Heights with the 44th District Court in Royal Oak.
• The Berkley School District Board of Education voted unanimously March 12 to appoint district administrator Dennis McDavid as its next superintendent. McDavid, 47, who previously served as the district’s director of schools and human resources, officially took the reins in July following the departure of Superintendent Michael Simeck.
• On March 19, the Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education approved a 27-month contract to assign a full-time school resource officer to the Taft Education Center. The board’s decision came in the wake of a shooting and attempted armed robbery of a Taft student that occurred in the parking lot of the alternative education high school in December 2011. District officials also installed security cameras at Taft in February to improve safety.
• The Huntington Woods City Commission adopted an ordinance March 20, aiming to protect the city by requiring property owners to better maintain vacant or abandoned homes. The ordinance declares that such properties are a “nuisance” and states that, when not adequately kept up, they harm neighborhood integrity, create hazards to public safety, contribute to local blight, lower neighboring property values, and attract vagrants and criminals.
• The inaugural Metro Detroit Street Eats event debuted in downtown Ferndale March 21. Presented by the Michigan Mobile Food Vendors Association and featuring at least eight local food vendors, the event was part of a growing trend of food trucks and carts popping up all across Metro Detroit.
• The Huntington Woods Men’s Club raised more than $116,000 in gross revenue at its 31st annual service auction March 24. The club donated $60,000 of that money to the city of Huntington Woods to help revive its tree-trimming program, which had lain dormant for 11 years.
• AJ’s Café in downtown Ferndale closed its doors at the end of March, after five years in business. The café received national attention during its tenure for its world record-setting Assembly Line concert marathons and its staunch support of the Detroit auto industry and blue-collar American workers.
• The BetterBuildings for Michigan program, which offers home energy audits for just $100, was made available to all Ferndale residents, following a pilot program that included about 400 Ferndale homes in late 2010. The audits provide numerous energy improvements that help residents save money on their energy bills, while keeping their homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The program also expanded to Huntington Woods later in the year.
• Ferndale Public Schools announced that it would be replacing its traditional alternative education program in the fall with a new digital high school and renaming the Taft Education Center as the Digital Learning Center. The program was described by the district as “an innovative blended learning experience” intended to recruit, retain and graduate more alt-ed students than ever before through a more flexible system designed to meet individual student needs.
• Planned Parenthood opened a new clinic on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale April 2, becoming the organization’s only location in Oakland County. With more than 820 locations nationwide, Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S. Still, the organization is often a target for pro-life advocates, and the Ferndale branch was faced with a swarm of protesters on the day of its grand opening.
• To the displeasure of many local Democrats, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved a new county apportionment map April 13 by a strict partisan vote. The map redrafted the district boundaries, based on numbers from the 2010 U.S. census, and reduced the number of Oakland County districts from 25 to 21. The board’s final decision came after nearly a year of arguments and lawsuits between members of the Republican and Democratic parties.
• On April 16, Huntington Woods began its long-awaited construction project on Coolidge Highway between 10 Mile and 11 Mile roads. The $1.84 million job was completed in August and covered the full restoration of Coolidge, which had been crumbling for years while the city remained tied up in a protracted lawsuit.
• The fourth annual Ferndale Green Week was held from April 16-22, featuring numerous Earth-friendly activities at locations throughout the downtown area. Each day of the weeklong celebration highlighted a different theme: Butterfly Day, Garden Day, Youth Day, Local Day, Celebration Day, Bicycle Day and Earth Day.
• Thirty-five years after her daughter’s murder, a Berkley woman filed a $100 million lawsuit against investigators from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police. Deborah Jarvis delivered the complaint to U.S. District Court April 23 on behalf of her daughter, Kristine Mihelich, who was killed in 1977 at age 10 and is one of four victims of the Oakland County Child Killer.
• Ferndale Public Schools and the Berkley School District were each named 2012 Best Communities for Music Education by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation. They were among seven school districts in Michigan and 176 nationwide to receive the designation this year.
• A group of about 15 downtown Berkley establishments located along Coolidge Highway, between Catalpa Drive and Edgewood Boulevard, united to form the Coolidge Collection of businesses. They came together with the goal of not only attracting more attention to their section of downtown Berkley, but also of encouraging city officials to reduce Coolidge from four lanes to three, lower the speed limit and add pedestrian crosswalks.
• After two months of discussion, the Ferndale City Council approved a pair of ordinances on May 7 that provide guidelines by which food trucks and carts in the city must operate. The ordinances specify restrictions to mobile food vendors’ days, hours and locations of operation, as well as requiring them to pay annual license fees.
• A sharply divided Pleasant Ridge City Commission opted May 8 to accept a $132,000 grant from the state of Michigan to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of combining its police and fire services with Berkley and Huntington Woods, in order to form a single public-safety department. Mayor Ralph Castelli and commissioners Jerry Bushey and Frank Rubino voted in favor of the grant, while commissioners Jason Krzysiak and Ann Perry voted against it.
• On May 10, the city of Huntington Woods was dealt a major blow in its nearly five-year legal battle regarding the construction work on Coolidge Highway, when the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed an Oakland County Circuit Court jury’s original ruling. The decision cost the city about $1.1 million in settlement money. Woods officials later appealed the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, but the high court upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling.
• The first Clean the Ferndale Up event was held May 12. It brought together dozens of local volunteers seeking to spruce up locations across the Ferndale community — including areas near Hilton Road, Livernois Street, Eight Mile Road, Wanda Street and three school buildings — that were in need of some care.
• The annual Berkley Days celebration took place from May 12-20 with a series of events held in and around the Berkley Community Center, the Berkley Ice Arena, Anderson Middle School and Hurley Field. The nine-day festival featured a carnival midway, horseshoe tournaments, a pooch pageant, a craft show, the Taste of Berkley event and more.
• On May 17, a massive fire at an industrial business in southeast Ferndale filled the sky with a towering cloud of smoke that could be seen for miles in every direction, until it was brought under control by local firefighters about 90 minutes later. Although there were no casualties or injuries, according to Fire Marshal Brian Batten, the blaze that was ignited at Van Industries that morning was the largest that Ferndale had seen in more than a decade.
• With its new ARTWN program, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority installed 10 locally made pieces of public art all around the downtown area in 2012. The two-year project was launched May 17 with the unveiling of the DDA’s first on-street bicycle rack, along with a sculpture created by Royal Oak artist Richard Gage.
• The Berkley City Council decided May 21 to place a Headlee override proposal on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot that would permanently increase the city’s general operating millage rate by 3 mills. The council made its decision after receiving an official recommendation from the 15-member citizens advisory committee that it had created in April. After studying the city’s financial outlook, the committee had voted 14-1 to recommend the proposal to council.
• On May 25, the driver who caused the fiery car crash that killed an innocent motorist in March 2011 was found not guilty by reason of insanity by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander. Sarah Gaynor, 22, of Oak Park, had been charged with second-degree murder in the horrific car accident that took the life of Terrence Dyer, 42, of Detroit, who was stopped at 12 Mile and Greenfield in Berkley when Gaynor struck him from behind, traveling at about 105 mph.
• The Vinsetta Garage in Berkley reopened as a restaurant June 8, becoming an overnight success in the process. New owners K.C. Crain and Curt Catallo purchased the building and began renovating it shortly after former owner Jack Marwil closed down the venerable Woodward Avenue institution in November 2010. The Vinsetta Garage had spent 91 years as a car lover’s sanctuary that specialized in repairing, modifying and customizing classic vehicles.
• The 11th annual Berkley Art Bash was held in downtown Berkley June 9, featuring more than 100 local artists, as well as live music, kids’ activities, sidewalk sales and more. Also taking place that day were the Berkley Public Safety Department’s annual Lids 4 Kids event and the Coolidge Collection of businesses’ inaugural Coolidge Rocks concert.
• To celebrate raising $35,000 in just six weeks for its ongoing playground improvement project, Burton Elementary School held a big outdoor party June 13, the last day of school. School families continue to raise funds for the endeavor, which is estimated to cost around $440,000 and will include installing a new, sustainable playscape and other upgrades to the Burton play area, which is used by children across the community.
• The second annual Ferndale Pride celebration, which serves as recognition of June as Gay Pride Month and of Ferndale as the epicenter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Metro Detroit, was held from June 14-17 at various locations across the city. It included activities ranging from an outdoor street festival to the Light the Night Against Hate walk to the Southeast Michigan Dyke March to the inaugural Rainbow Run event.
• Reconstruction of the ramshackle 12 Mile and Coolidge intersection in downtown Berkley began June 19. The $382,000 project involved removing the crumbling brick pavers and replacing them with a new concrete road and stamped concrete crosswalks. The construction was completed in early August, in time for Berkley CruiseFest activities.
• Longtime Ferndale High School principal Herb Ivory welcomed his retirement with a huge community celebration at FHS on June 20. Hundreds of current and former students, co-workers, colleagues and other well-wishers crammed into the school auditorium for a retirement program honoring Ivory’s 43 years as an educator.
• U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Leach died June 26 while stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Leach, 29, was a Ferndale resident and 2000 Ferndale High School graduate who served two tours of duty in Iraq, and he was on his first deployment to Afghanistan at the time of his death. He left behind a wife, Sarah, and their 7-month-old son, Jack.
• Huntington Woods began participating in a national recycling competition with a grand prize of $100,000 July 2. The city was selected to represent Michigan as one of 50 communities across the U.S. to take part in the SC Johnson Recyclebank Green Choices Challenge, in which the city with the highest percentage of self-reported recycling participation during the first six months of the program will win a grant to be used for environmental upgrades.
• On July 4, Huntington Woods held its annual array of Independence Day festivities, including the Fourth of July parade, family-friendly games and community service awards in Scotia Park. After the sweltering heat led to a severe thunderstorm in the evening, the Sun Messengers concert in the park and the Men’s Club raffle drawing had to be canceled, but the fireworks show over Rackham Golf Course still took place after dark.
• Local cities spent much of the summer grappling with the state’s new fireworks law, which legalized airborne fireworks in Michigan for the first time. In response, Ferndale, Berkley, Huntington Woods and other communities passed ordinances restricting fireworks usage to the 10 national holidays authorized by the state, as well as the day before and day after. However, many residents viewed the increased number of fireworks being shot off in their neighborhoods as a nuisance that causes excessive noise and an unnecessary fire hazard.
• Two men fired gunshots at a pair of bystanders following a botched armed robbery attempt in Ferndale July 8. After they were unable to enter the 7-Eleven store on West Nine Mile Road, the suspects tried to rob a couple of customers who were walking near the building, then fired several shots at them as they ran away.
• The family of a woman who died of alcohol withdrawal while locked in a Berkley jail cell two years earlier sued the Public Safety Department July 9. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Oakland County Circuit Court on behalf of Lisa Kindl, who passed away July 13, 2010, at the age of 47. The 18-page document contains 11 total counts against the department and requests damages in excess of $25,000.
• On July 9, the Ferndale City Council adopted a pet-boarding ordinance allowing dog kennels and doggie daycare businesses to operate only in the city’s light- industrial and general-industrial districts. The ordinance also includes setback criteria requiring a pet facility’s outdoor play area to be located at least 50 feet from any residential properties, and demanding that all animals be confined inside the building between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
• Berkley Parks and Recreation hosted its second annual SummerFest series of activities from July 11 through Sept. 22. This year’s events included Senior Activity Day, the Jaycee Park Jamboree, the Community Picnic, Lil’ Tykes Tot Lot Day, an ice cream social and open house, and a pair of outdoor family movie nights.
• In an effort to find a compromise between traffic flow and pedestrian friendliness in the downtown district, on July 16 the Berkley City Council agreed to conduct an $8,000 traffic study along Coolidge Highway, between 11 Mile and 12 Mile roads. The council’s decision was largely in response to persistent requests by Coolidge business owners, who have been seeking ways to give the area a more traditional, walkable downtown feel.
• The 16th annual Ferndale Pub Crawl was held July 27 at 22 venues across downtown Ferndale. About 2,000 guests had a good time while helping to raise money for four local nonprofit organizations: the Midwest AIDS Coalition, the Ferndale Community Foundation, the FernCare Free Clinic and the Ferndale Police Auxiliary.
• The Affirmations community center in downtown Ferndale began a 100-day hunger strike July 30, along with seven other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups throughout the state. The hunger strike was held through Election Day as a protest against Michigan’s existing laws, which Affirmations leaders asserted prevent LGBT citizens from having the same rights and benefits as heterosexuals.
• Eight local communities — Royal Oak, Ferndale, Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Oak Park — formed a collaborative effort called the Southeast Michigan Rodent Control Program. To fund the program, Pleasant Ridge applied for an Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) grant from the state of Michigan on behalf of the group, requesting $150,000 to be used to combat the ongoing rat problem in the region.
• Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter’s new Mayor’s Business Council held its first meeting Aug. 2. Based on the Oakland County Business Roundtable, the council seeks to establish a better relationship between Ferndale businesses and city officials, and it is made up of business owners, entrepreneurs, city administrators, elected officials, representatives from educational institutions and economic development professionals.
• Longtime Ferndale Public Works Director Byron Photiades retired from the city Aug. 3 after 39 years of public service. Photiades, 61, began working for the city in 1973 and had served as its DPW director since 1986. Three weeks later, the Ferndale City Council hired former Walled Lake DPW Director Loyd Cureton to fill the position on an interim basis, before officially appointing him as Photiades’ successor Nov. 26.
• Berkley voters approved the city’s first general operating millage increase since 1959 on Aug. 7. The 3-mill Headlee override proposal received more than 68 percent of the vote in an election that saw strong voter turnout throughout the city. The tax increase, which will not go into effect until July 2013, will generate about $1.35 million per year in additional revenue for the city and result in an annual property tax increase of roughly $175 for the average Berkley homeowner.
• In a battle of two Democratic incumbents, Oakland County Commissioner Helaine Zack, D-Huntington Woods, defeated fellow Commissioner Craig Covey, D-Ferndale, in the Aug. 7 primary election, receiving 53.7 percent of the vote to her opponent’s 45.9 percent. The race was made necessary after Oakland County’s district lines were redrawn in April, placing both Zack and Covey within the new 18th district. Zack went on to overcome Republican challenger Steven Zimberg in a landslide Nov. 6, earning her sixth term on the county board.
• On Aug. 11, the eighth annual Sierra Club Green Cruise returned to downtown Ferndale. Featuring a green parade along West Nine Mile Road, a series of bicycle rides and myriad other environmentally friendly amusements, the Green Cruise is a celebration of human-powered forms of transportation.
• Berkley was blessed with beautiful weather for its annual CruiseFest event Aug. 17. Local families filled the downtown area to watch the city’s signature classic car parade, which featured more than 350 vintage vehicles making their way down 12 Mile Road, as well as enjoy live music from rock ‘n’ roll bands, the Tri-Community Coalition’s Street Dance, moon bouncers, ice cream, sidewalk sales and plenty of tasty foods and beverages.
• Classic car lovers flocked to downtown Ferndale Aug. 18 for the city’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise weekend. Nine Mile and Woodward were jam-packed with people checking out the displays for Mustang Alley, Ford racing vehicles and Ford trucks, in addition to the Classics & Cruis’n Legends vehicle show, the Restoration Academy, the Rock’n Live Entertainment stage, the Michigan Gumball Rally display, the Cars in Art project and the Kids Play Zone.
• The Pleasant Ridge-based global online promotions company ePrize announced Aug. 21 that it had been acquired by Catterton Partners, a private equity firm based in Connecticut. However, ePrize CEO Matt Wise said that the change would be good news for the local economy, as his company planned to expand its 46,000-square-foot facility in Pleasant Ridge and add as many as 120 new employees by the end of 2013.
• On Sept. 1, former Berkley resident Laura Uhlianuk and her family launched the Berkley Community Farm Stand on 12 Mile Road. Seven days a week through the end of October, the farm stand offered a variety of fresh, locally grown, organic produce that was less than 24 hours removed from the soil.
• As one of the assistant coaches for the U.S. men’s wheelchair basketball team at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Berkley Parks and Recreation Director Tom Colwell helped win a bronze medal for his country on the largest international stage. In that bronze medal game, Team USA defeated Great Britain 61-46 to earn its first spot on the podium since the Sydney Paralympics in 2000 and avenge its loss to the Brits at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
• A suspected bank robber was shot by local police on the morning of Sept. 10 after he led them on a chase that ended in front of a Pleasant Ridge home. John Azell Jones, 47, of Royal Oak Township, allegedly robbed the Chase Bank on Woodward Avenue in Huntington Woods, exited the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash, fled the scene in his vehicle and was eventually shot by two officers after the pursuit turned into a foot chase just south of I-696. No weapon was found in Jones’ possession. He was later arraigned on felony charges of bank robbery and fleeing and eluding police.
• Ferndale began overhauling its downtown parking system by replacing more than 900 individual meters with 19 state-of-the-art digital pay stations that can service multiple parking spaces in each lot, allowing users to pay for parking via coins, bills, credit card or cellphone. The City Council approved the $330,000 project Sept. 10, and the installation is expected to be completed no later than Feb. 15.
• The DIY Street Fair celebrated its five-year anniversary in downtown Ferndale from Sept. 14-16. Held as a salute to local residents who adhere to an independent, do-it-yourself lifestyle, this year’s festival featured 130 product vendors and 64 bands performing on three stages, all showcasing their artistic creativity and personal expression.
• On Sept. 18, the Huntington Woods City Commission unanimously voted against participating in a study to determine the feasibility of combining its public safety services with its neighbors in Pleasant Ridge and Berkley, citing a desire to include Ferndale and Royal Oak in the study, as well. The commission’s decision effectively ended the project, which included a $132,000 grant from the state and had already been approved by Berkley and Pleasant Ridge.
• A fundraiser held at Rosie O’Grady’s in downtown Ferndale Sept. 20 brought in more than $21,000 for Ferndale police officer John Cleveland and his family. Cleveland’s 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, was killed by a drunken driver in June, when the family was driving through the intersection of 23 Mile and Hayes roads in Shelby Township.
• In a new series released by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Huntington Woods was ranked as the No. 10 “Best Place to Live for Suburbanites” out of approximately 11,000 suburbs surveyed across the U.S. The city was also named the second-best suburban community in Michigan, behind only East Grand Rapids.
• Amy Neibert, an elementary school teacher from Walled Lake, announced plans to open her new Great Lakes Anchor Academy in Ferndale in the fall of 2013. The academy, a public charter school for students in sixth through 12th grade, is a partnership with the Great Lakes Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps that, in addition to a curriculum of core academic classes, will emphasize maritime research and exploration, as well as studies of the Great Lakes.
• With a public meeting held Oct. 1, the Rotary Club of Berkley and the Berkley School District officially launched a joint effort to stamp out bullying in the local community. Their two-year Take a Stand: No Place for Hate campaign finds the two entities working together to raise awareness about bullying and teach students, teachers and other residents the skills necessary to prevent this serious problem and its consequences.
• Gary Meier, superintendent of Ferndale Public Schools, notified the School Board Oct. 1 that he would be terminating a controversial contract between the school district and his independent consulting firm, Innovative Consulting in Education, in 90 days. While the agreement would have generated nearly $500,000 of revenue for the district throughout a three-year period, it had faced repeated criticism from members of CLEAR, a local political action committee.
• On Oct. 5, 62-year-old Ferndale resident and Vietnam War veteran Tom Ducharme finally received his Purple Heart award. U.S. Sen. Carl Levin presented Ducharme, a former U.S. Army specialist, with the award during a ceremony attended by more than 100 people at the Ferndale Elks Lodge No. 1588.
• Despite some opposition from the community, the Ferndale City Council approved an amended fire ordinance Oct. 8, allowing residents to enjoy fire pits and chimineas in their backyards if they obtain a permit from the city. The revised ordinance was brought before the council by Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan as an attempt to establish guidelines for an activity that many Ferndale residents had already been practicing in, often without knowing that it was prohibited.
• The Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ferndale Recreation Department hosted their 31st annual Hilton Fall Festival along Hilton Road Oct. 13. It featured costume contests, hayrides, carnival games, pony rides, an arts and crafts fair, pumpkin painting, live entertainment and other outdoor activities for the whole family.
• Pleasant Ridge police decided to re-launch the city’s neighborhood-watch program in order to help residents feel more connected with their city and vice versa. The long-dormant program, which had not been active for as many as 50 years, officially got up and running again Oct. 16 with a public meeting attended by about 200 residents.
• The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority will soon be pursuing a series of streetscaping improvements intended to bring greater walkability, pedestrian safety and economic development to a four-block stretch of West Nine Mile Road. On Oct. 22, the Ferndale City Council agreed to move forward with the $1.1 million project, which has been in the works for more than a decade. Construction is expected to begin in April 2013 and be completed no later than October.
• Berkley Parks and Recreation and the Berkley Junior Women’s Club presented their annual Halloween Spooktacular Carnival and Spooky Skating events Oct. 27. The former featured a variety of Halloween-themed games for kids to enjoy, while the latter offered free open skating to anyone dressed in costume.
• The Ferndale High School marching band took home second place in the Flight III division of the Michigan Competing Bands Association state marching competition at Ford Field Nov. 3, earning its highest score ever, in the process. The Golden Eagles have a long track record of success at the competition, winning the state championship four years in a row, from 2004 to 2007, and then again for three straight years, from 2009 to 2011.
• On Nov. 3, the Berkley American Legion held a pub crawl fundraiser for the U.S. Staff Sgt. Matthew Leach Memorial Fund. The event drew about 115 participants and brought in almost $5,000 to help the organization build a monument in Leach’s honor, which they plan to unveil in front of the legion hall in April 2013.
• The Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education election Nov. 6 was a decisive victory for four candidates running on a common slate: newcomers Amy Butters (B), Jim O’Donnell (O), Raylon Leaks-May (L) and Kevin Deegan-Krause (D). The so-called BOLD candidates won all four open seats on the School Board, defeating an opposing group made up of three incumbents — board President Keith Warnick, Secretary Katrina Collins and Treasurer Jim Pfleger — plus challenger Bradford Parks, by a wide margin.
• In an election that saw strong voter turnout in all four Woodward Talk cities, long lines were a common problem at a handful of Ferndale precincts, where many voters were forced to wait two hours or more to cast their ballots. City Clerk Cherilynn Tallman cited the high turnout, the decreased number of polling locations, the shortage of election workers and other factors as causes, and she vowed to address these issues before the next major election.
• Burton Elementary School parents Amy Haenick and Elyse Cohen, along with student liaison Henry Ghawi, began selling red bracelets at school Nov. 12 to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Within the first three days, they had already collected more than $2,200 for the nonprofit group Kids in Distressed Situations.
• Jessica Keyser began her tenure as the Ferndale Public Library’s new director Nov. 19. The 31-year-old book lover has lived in Ferndale for almost a decade and previously served for about two years as director of the Hazel Park Memorial Library. She replaced former director Kate Pohjola, who left the Ferndale library in August.
• The Ferndale City Council voted unanimously Nov. 26 to move forward with a new project to renovate the city’s out-of-date police station and district courthouse. The proposal will not require borrowing any money or spending any taxpayer dollars, however. For the past 12 years, court officials have been taking $20 out of every paid ticket and putting it into a separate account, which has remained untouched since that time and has accumulated nearly $2 million.
• The Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (OLHSA) announced that it would be moving out of its south office in Ferndale, beginning Dec. 1. After selling its building on East Nine Mile Road, OLHSA moved its Women, Infants and Children services to a new, smaller facility on Hilton Road, shifted its Welcome Center services to the Accounting Aid Society, and transferred its emergency food assistance and food pantry programs to the Renaissance Vineyard Church.
• Berkley held its eighth annual Holiday Lights Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 1. The event featured more than 40 parade units and marchers creatively lighting themselves up, Santa Claus illuminating the holiday tree at Berkley City Hall, trolley rides, a children’s petting farm, horse-drawn carriage rides and more.
• Ferndale police arrested three men Dec. 2 in connection with a series of parking-meter thefts across the state, including in downtown Ferndale, Royal Oak and Birmingham. Locally, coins being stolen from parking meters has been a recurring problem, dating back to 2009 or 2010. Downtown Ferndale was hit at least four times in 2012 alone, police said, and other surrounding communities have been experiencing similar problems.
• A number of changes were implemented at Ferndale Public Schools’ Digital Learning Center starting Dec. 3 that district officials hope will mitigate the safety concerns of neighbors. Chief among these was the decision to convert the alternative-education high school to a closed campus, which prohibits all re-entry into the building. Students are also no longer allowed to enter the school after 11 a.m. and must have their student identification visible on them at all times.
• From Dec. 7-9, the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority hosted its 12th annual Holiday Ice & WinterFest Market near Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. The humongous holiday festival boasted dozens of ice sculptures, a five-story Ferris wheel, a live reindeer display, pictures with Santa Claus, holiday hayrides, an outdoor market featuring 30 local artisans, live musical entertainment, a holiday greens market, strolling carolers and a special appearance from Metalliclaus, a seasonal favorite at Ferndale’s own Detroit Comics.
• Ferndale moved one step closer to bringing its online presence into the 21st century Dec. 17 with the unveiling of the city’s modern branding logo. The new graphic design plan will be used extensively with the revamped city website, which is expected to launch sometime in March. It includes a new Ferndale logo featuring a gray uppercase “F” with a colored swatch in the center that varies to represent different city departments.