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January 2, 2013

So long, 2012

Millages, court cases mark the year gone by

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
So long, 2012
Warren resident Jenna Rupe, 7, gets an up-close look at one of the Detroit Zoo’s three baby otters during their debut June 7.

The past 12 months have brought big changes to the Review’s coverage area. The year saw several millages approved in both Royal Oak and Clawson, the resignation of Royal Oak High School Principal Michael Greening following embezzlement charges, ordinance tweaks for sidewalk use and permit parking in Royal Oak, the inaugural Baconfest in Royal Oak, the inaugural Fire and Spice … and Everything Nice! in Clawson, and another year of the popular Woodward Dream Cruise and Ford Arts, Beats & Eats events in Royal Oak.

Here’s a look back at many noteworthy local events:

January
• Students at Royal Oak High School returned to classes Jan. 3 to learn that Principal Michael Greening was on paid administrative leave for “the possibility of financial irregularities” since Dec. 29, 2011. Former Birmingham administrator Jim Moll has served as interim principal since the allegation, and Greening pleaded guilty to embezzlement Dec. 11. Police obtained a warrant April 19, charging him with two counts of embezzlement of an amount between $1,000 and $20,000 for incidents in 2010 and 2011. The guilty plea resulted in one of the two charges being dropped. Sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 22, 2013, before Judge Shalina Kumar in Oakland County Circuit Court.

• Beaumont Health System, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network agreed to a deal that increases the hospital’s rate of reimbursement but also institutes new performance-based standards for payment. The Jan. 6 deal occurred six days before BCN patients would have lost coverage at Beaumont facilities.

• Parole absconders Alan Wood and Tonia Watson were in Royal Oak’s 44th District Court Jan. 27 for a preliminary exam for allegedly killing resident Nancy Dailey, 80, at her house on Trafford Nov. 20, 2011. The case is still in court after several reschedules, with Watson pleading guilty to second-degree murder Dec. 21 in order to lessen her previous first-degree murder charge and testify against Wood, who still faces a first-degree murder charge. Wood’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 7 in Oakland County Circuit before Judge Colleen O’Brien.

• The Royal Oak City Commission approved a new strategic plan Jan. 23 that focuses on, among other things, re-energizing parks, neighborhoods and community preservation.

February
• Clawson hosted the inaugural Fire and Spice … and Everything Nice! event Feb. 18. The event featured a bonfire, marshmallow drop, chili cook-off and craft sales benefiting local groups.

• The Archdiocese of Detroit announced several churches are in the early stages of planning for clustering, if pastor retirement numbers and budget deficits both continue to increase. Following the retirement of the Rev. John Christ at The Church of St. Dennis in June, the church closed Nov. 25 and merged with St. Vincent Ferrer in Madison Heights.

• Clawson voters approved a 10-year, 4.2398-mill proposal Feb. 28 with support from 53.76 percent of those at the polls. The approval allows the city staff to remain at previously available levels.

March
• Royal Oak and the Professional Firefighters Local 431 union approved a tentative two-year agreement March 5 that will save the city $550,000 per year, after a 15-percent base pay reduction and immediate wage cut. The contract applies to July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2013.

• Clinton Township resident Christopher Hearn, 24, pleaded no contest March 5 to a second-degree murder charge for the killing of Royal Oak resident and ex-girlfriend Ranae Ann Chupick, 41, Sept. 19, 2011, in her Rochester Road apartment. Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Nanci Grant’s March 28 sentencing sent Hearn to prison for 48-90 years, with no option for parole until after Hearn turns 72 years old.

• A Royal Oak study by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) recommended several changes for city staffing, primarily in public safety. Recommendations included adding 11 personnel, among several other infrastructure changes the City Commission considered when laying out November’s public safety millage.

April
• Clawson resident Andrew J. Lynn was driving his Dodge Magnum April 7 when he hit a 9-year-old Royal Oak boy who was riding his bicycle on Bywood. Lynn drove away from the incident, but was found, arrested and then arraigned April 8 before Oakland County Circuit Court Magistrate Judith Holtz on charges of third-offense drunken driving, leaving the scene of an injury accident and driving on a revoked license. His pre-exam conference was sent to Troy’s 52-4 District Court before Judge Dennis Drury.

• Royal Oak business Taste Love Cupcakes won a $10,000 prize from Food Network for winning the “Cupcake Wars” television show, which aired April 22. Co-owners Michelle Brown and Yolanda Baston had sent in an audition tape in September 2011. The business opened in April 2011 and survived three rounds of competition before the victory.

• Clawson sent out about 900 water shutoff notices to 16.4 percent of its water consumers April 23 for overdue bills and $200,000 in past-due water was collected by May 1. The water and sewer accounts make up 28.6 percent of the city’s $6.6 million budget.

May
• Clawson Public Schools chose Monique Beels as their new superintendent May 3 to replace Cheryl Rogers upon Rogers’ retirement June 30. Beels came to Clawson from her position as assistant superintendent for curriculum, assessment, instruction and technology with Grosse Pointe Public School System.

• Former Royal Oak police officer Michael Smith, 41, faced 20 felony charges stemming from child pornography allegations levied by the Michigan Attorney General’s Criminal Division. Smith resigned from a 12-year career with the Royal Oak Police Department on the spot Jan. 25, when Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue went to Smith’s house following an issuance of a search warrant during an investigation by several government agencies. Smith, a Holly resident, was arraigned May 10 by Judge Kelley Kostin at the 52-2 District Court in Clarkston, which serves Clarkston, Holly and eight other municipalities. The matter is still in court.

• The Royal Oak Detectives Association and Royal Oak Police Command Officers Association both voted to ratify two-year agreements with the city May 7, effective from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013. An immediate 2.5 percent reduction in pay, a wage freeze in the second year and changes to health care were all focal points.

• More than 20 residents approached the Royal Oak City Commission May 21 to voice their displeasure with the city’s Sidewalk Improvement Program’s plans for the sidewalk areas in front of their houses. The phase was the first of a six-year plan to fix up the sidewalks throughout six quadrants of the city, but several residents disagreed with the assessments.

• Royal Oak High School graduated about 385 students May 31 and Clawson High School graduated 140 students June 3. Daniel Carpenter was CHS valedictorian and ROHS Class President Dan Dobras spoke at the ROHS ceremony, as ROHS does not name a specific valedictorian.

June
• A play called “Masks” drew a crowd to Royal Oak Missionary Church June 1-3. Written by Pastor Bill Barnwell, “Masks” followed two intertwined plots between “a closeted homosexual youth pastor driven to despair after years of torment” and “a prominent and successful married couple struggling with marital faithfulness, and their teenagers’ sexually related angst.” With religion, homosexuality, suicide and sexual fidelity as tackled topics, the play drew a lot of local interest.

• The inaugural Baconfest event took place June 2 at the Royal Oak Farmers Market, selling out weeks before the event as more than 1,000 people attended.

• Royal Oak and the Royal Oak Police Officers Association agreed to a two-year contract June 4 that applies for July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2013. The agreement included a 2.5-percent wage reduction, 1-percent pension contribution increase and that the ROPOA join the city’s other unions on the same health care plan, mirroring prescription benefits. As a result, the 2012-13 fiscal budget was approved the same night.

• On June 4 and June 5, respectively, the Royal Oak City Commission and Clawson City Council each banned the possession or sale of K2, Spice and bath salts, which were being used as drugs with effects compared to marijuana.

• Throughout June, Royal Oak and Crazy Fireworks disputed the permits necessary for Crazy Fireworks’ yellow crate-like stand along Woodward Avenue. The stand had to relocate north on Woodward once before remaining in business for the season.

• The deaths of Royal Oak Middle School siblings Jordan Siegel, 14, and Ashley Siegel, 11, shook the community June 22, after both were involved in a rollover accident on US-23 in Pittsfield. Several fundraisers and memorial events followed.

July
• The presence of rats in both Royal Oak and Clawson was felt by many residents. With limited code enforcement officers available in each city, residents were given advice on how to take care of the problem themselves.

• Viewers of the PBS television show “History Detectives” July 31 were treated to a piece of local history, as part of a letter bearing former President Abraham Lincoln’s signature was featured alongside Royal Oak Historical Museum curator Muriel Versagi.

August
• Royal Oak was blanketed with classic cars Aug. 18 as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise returned to town. Hundreds of thousands of people came from across the country to enjoy the event, which was centered at Woodward and 13 Mile.

• bd’s Mongolian Grill celebrated its 20th anniversary in August. The Royal Oak location, which was previously located farther north on Main Street, was the first restaurant to open for the current international chain.

• The Royal Oak City Commission launched an investigation of Commissioner Jim Rasor Aug. 24 regarding a potential conflict of interest in attempting to rent out parking spaces for Arts, Beats & Eats. A six-page opinion by attorney Bill Hampton found Rasor had not violated the city’s ethics ordinance because he had not completed the application process. The Oct. 15 opinion was released to the public Dec. 17.

• Kimball High School alumnus Jim Cole, 59, was named Royal Oak High School’s new athletic director/assistant principal. Cole was a football quarterback in the 1960s and went on to become the head coach of the Alma College football program, even serving as Alma’s athletic director briefly.

• The 15th annual Ford Arts, Beats & Eats festival filled up the downtown area along Washington Avenue and Center Street Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Filling the area with plenty of food, music and artwork, the festival had a net income of $92,600 for the city of Royal Oak, while drawing 390,000 people into town.

September
• Many Royal Oak City Commissioners took offense to an impromptu ethics pledge proposal by Mayor Pro-Tem Patricia Capello at the Sept. 10 meeting. Capello proposed that the nine-sentence pledge skip over the Rules Committee and be approved at the table that night, despite none of the commissioners seeing it until the meeting. She wanted the commission to recite it at the start of every meeting after the pledge of allegiance and invocation.

• Clawson’s after-school teen zone was renovated and dubbed The A.Z. The teen center at Hunter Community Center, 509 Fisher Ct., provides an after-school hangout for Clawson high school and middle school students.

• Beaumont and Henry Ford health systems announced Sept. 28 that they would each be adopting a “no nicotine” hiring policy, effective Jan. 1, 2013. On Oct. 31, the two health systems announced plans to merge with one another.

October
• After more than a year of planning and fundraising, the Woodward Avenue Action Association’s tribute tower was illuminated Oct. 3 at the Woodward Avenue median between 13 Mile and Coolidge roads. The 30-foot concrete and glass tower is part of a series, joining towers in Ferndale, Pontiac and Highland Park.

• A 14-year-old girl was nearly abducted Oct. 6 allegedly by Bloomfield Hills resident Derek Wallin, 24, while she was walking near Normandy and Tonawanda. Wallin was arrested Oct. 8 and charged with attempted kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree. The case is in Oakland County Circuit Court.

• Citing an increase in the deer population and the decrease in a rare plant species being eaten by the deer, the Royal Oak Nature Society heightened the fence at some portions of Tenhave Woods, within Quickstad Park at Lexington and Marais, to keep the deer out Oct. 27.

• An Oct. 31 concert by rappers Insane Clown Posse was canceled by the Royal Oak Music Theatre following a Sept. 27 contact from Royal Oak Police citing safety concerns with ICP’s Juggalo fan base, which was classified as a gang by the FBI. The Hallowicked show was moved to The Fillmore Detroit.

November
• Royal Oak voters approved a five-year, 3.975-mill increase to property taxes in order to help fund public safety Nov. 6 with 67.13 percent support. The millage will be levied for 3.475 mills for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years, then the full 3.975 mills through June 30, 2017, generating $7.95 million in the peak years. 

• Clawson voters renewed a 10-year, 18.6-mill non-homestead millage Nov. 6 with 64.03 percent support. Levied at 18 mills, the millage is expected to generate about $1.6 million per year for Clawson Public Schools’ operating budget from 2013 through 2022, through property taxes to businesses and secondary residences, not primary homes.

• Voters within the Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools district approved a 10-year, 1-mill sinking fund proposal to benefit infrastructure improvements Nov. 6 with 57.45 percent support.

• After much debate, the Royal Oak City Commission set both a new ordinance and fee structure in regard to permit parking. Residential property owners seeking to establish a permit-parking zone will need petitions from 75 percent or more of the other residential property owners in the proposed permit-parking zone before such a zone is considered by the Traffic Committee.

• The idea of a human rights ordinance, which was defeated by 67.36 percent of voters 11 years ago, drew a lot of support during a Nov. 19 Royal Oak City Commission meeting. The commission unanimously directed City Attorney David Gillam to draft such an ordinance, which will be discussed further in 2013.

• The metal security curtains at two local businesses drew the ire of Royal Oak City Commissioners during a Nov. 19 meeting. With concerns about the visual impression it gives visitors to the downtown area, the city is now drafting an ordinance that will regulate the types of security curtains allowed at local businesses.

December
• Beaumont Hospital opened the new $8.6-million Suzanne & Herbert Tyner Center for Cardiovascular Interventions Dec. 14, allowing cardiologists and cardiac surgeons to work side by side, while medical students can watch from an observation room with high-definition camera display.

• A new sidewalk-use ordinance went into effect Dec. 27 that allows biking on sidewalks, just not in the downtown area. Cyclists are still allowed to walk their bicycles on the sidewalk, but they can only be ridden in the bike lane in the street. Strollers, dog walkers, motorized wheelchairs and mobility scooters with three or more wheels will now be allowed on sidewalks. Two-wheel motor scooters are not allowed on sidewalks.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.