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 Garden Supervisor Joe Rarus shows off his red raspberries at the Southfield Senior Garden July 12.

Garden Supervisor Joe Rarus shows off his red raspberries at the Southfield Senior Garden July 12.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Hello, 2020: A look back at 2019 in the Southfield area

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published December 30, 2019

 Lathrup Village residents Tim Thomas and Denise Bailey laugh with Ferndale sisters Lisa Miller and Lauren Miller June 1 at the Lathrup Village Supper Club event at Hortulus Gardens, near City Hall. The group meets four times per year to host themed parties.

Lathrup Village residents Tim Thomas and Denise Bailey laugh with Ferndale sisters Lisa Miller and Lauren Miller June 1 at the Lathrup Village Supper Club event at Hortulus Gardens, near City Hall. The group meets four times per year to host themed parties.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Southfield residents Eli Drone and Ian Carr play chess March 22 at the Southfield Pavilion during a Family Game Night event. The Parks and Recreation Department hosted the event.

Southfield residents Eli Drone and Ian Carr play chess March 22 at the Southfield Pavilion during a Family Game Night event. The Parks and Recreation Department hosted the event.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Detroit resident Doris Franklin models a traditional Nigerian head wrap June 13 at the Southfield Public Library. Zarinah El-Amin Naeem hosted the event.

Detroit resident Doris Franklin models a traditional Nigerian head wrap June 13 at the Southfield Public Library. Zarinah El-Amin Naeem hosted the event.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — As the decade draws to a close, residents are looking back on the highs and lows of 2019.

 

Southfield welcomes new police chief
Chief Elvin Barren was all smiles as he was sworn in as Southfield’s seventh police chief.

People showed up in droves to witness the ceremony July 29 at Southfield City Hall.

City Administrator Fred Zorn appointed Barren as the new chief at a July 8 City Council meeting.

According to a news release from Community Relations Director Michael Manion, Barren previously served as the deputy chief of police at the Detroit Police Department, where he commanded the largest bureau in the DPD, including eight major units.

Barren also oversaw a yearly budget of $137 million and over 1,100 police officers. He had been with the DPD for 21 years, 12 of those years with command experience and over six years at the rank of commander or above.

The appointment of a new chief follows former Chief Eric Hawkins’ departure from the department last summer to lead the Albany Police Department.

In June, the public was invited to attend a panel interview for the top four candidates during a special City Council meeting.

The candidates were asked about their background and how they would handle certain high-stakes situations, such as a mass shooting, threats of violence and racial tension.

 

Library restores hours
Starting June 3, the Southfield Public Library added 10 hours back into its schedule.

In 2011, the budget for the library was cut, leaving officials with the task of cutting hours, programs and salaries. Hours were reduced by 30%, City Librarian Dave Ewick said in an earlier report.

Southfield overwhelmingly approved a 4.9183-mill tax increase in May 2011, awarding $1.1 million in funds to the Southfield Public Library and balancing the 2011-12 budget. With revenues down 30% from the peak year of 2008, though, Ewick said, the numbers still sank for them. Not being able to operate with the $7.84 million budget, they dipped into the city’s $4.8 million fund balance to the tune of $708,270 to compensate for a shortfall in 2012.

Ewick said the hours increased thanks to a rise in property values in the city.

According to the library’s website, the new hours are 1-9 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 1-5 p.m. Fridays, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays September through May.

Ewick said it has been a major goal of his to restore the library’s hours.

 

Northland sale approved for retail, housing, medical marijuana
The city of Southfield entered into a purchase agreement with local developers for portions of the Northland Center property.

At a special meeting Aug. 5, Downtown Development Authority Director Al Aceves presented the City Council with two purchase and sale agreements.

“On behalf of the Northland Committee, we’re very pleased to present two sale and purchase offers for the Northland property, which comprises about 85% of the total property,” Aceves said at the meeting.

According to City Council documents, Jonna Development will purchase 10.38 acres of the site along Greenfield Road for $1,808,611 for a retail development.

The council approved the plan unanimously.

Councilman Dan Brightwell said the approval of the plan was a “no-brainer.”

Under the second agreement, Renaissance Place Development will purchase around 80 acres of the Northland site for $8 million.

Renaissance Place Development will use the property for a mixed-use development, which includes a medical campus, housing, retail and a medical marijuna facility.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the plan. Councilman Donald Fracassi voted no.

Fracassi said he voted against the plan because he didn’t want the development to turn into a gateway to recreational marijuana, although the city is currently under a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

 

City cuts ties with Almost Home
Southfield officials said in July that the city would be cutting ties with animal shelter Almost Home because the organization did not provide the level of service that the city expects.

Almost Home is a no-kill, nonprofit shelter dedicated to finding and rescuing animals that are in need of a home. Almost Home also acted as the city’s animal shelter.

Southfield Community Relations Director Michael Manion said that during a review of city vendors and contractual agreements, the city issued a request for proposals for operation of the building in March.

The city received two proposals, including one from Almost Home, but it was not selected.

The shelter’s tenure with Southfield goes back to 2006, when co-founder Gail Montgomery-Schwartz approached the city to use its old, abandoned dog pound to operate a no-kill animal shelter. At the time, Southfield police had used the building to hold stray and rescued animals before taking them to the Michigan Humane Society in Westland.

Montgomery-Schwartz said previously that she and her team had saved countless animals, and the partnership took the burden of animal care off the city’s shoulders.

In October, Police Chief Elvin Barren announced that the city would be contracting with Oakland County Animal Control.

 

Lathrup Village opts out of recreational marijuana
At a March 18 meeting, the Lathrup Village City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that enables the city to opt out of recreational marijuana establishments in the city.

A statewide proposal that legalized pot for recreational use for people 21 and older passed in all 83 Michigan counties during the midterm election in November 2018 with more than 55% of the vote. However, municipalities have the ability to “opt out” and ban recreational establishments within their borders.

City Attorney Scott Baker said that the ordinance contains a sunset provision that requires the city to revisit the ordinance in 18 months. Otherwise, the ordinance expires, he said.

During those 18 months, Baker said, the city will explore its options.

The city held two town hall meetings on recreational marijuana where residents could weigh in on what they thought of either opting in or opting out.

During a January town hall, Mayor Kelly Garrett said the council was on the fence about how the city would react to the newly passed state law.

Police Chief Scott McKee said at the town hall meeting that he is concerned that impaired driving deaths will increase if the city allows recreational marijuana facilities, and he is concerned that there could be a spike in violent crime. McKee cited studies from Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012.

 

Galloway case moves forward, shootings remain unresolved
On Sept. 9 and 10, Berkley man Floyd Galloway, who is charged in the 2016 disapperance and murder of Farmington Hills resident Danielle Stislicki, appeared before Farmington Hills 47th District Court Judge James Brady for a preliminary hearing.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the murder charge against Galloway during a March 5 press conference in Lansing.

In December 2018, Galloway was sentenced to 16-35 years in prison for the Sept. 4, 2016, attempted rape of a Hines Park jogger in Livonia. Prior to that arrest, in June 2017, Galloway was considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Stislicki, who has not been found.

Galloway is a former security guard at MetLife in Southfield, where Stislicki worked.

Stislicki was last seen Dec. 2, 2016, leaving MetLife, according to Farmington Hills police, but her vehicle was found at her home at the Independence Green Apartments in Farmington Hills.

Galloway is charged with one count of first-degree premeditated murder, a felony that could carry a life sentence without parole.

Two shootings remain unresolved in Farmington Hills.

Just after midnight Aug. 26, Farmington Hills police were tipped off to a shooting at a shopping plaza at Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads.

Officers who were at the scene of a fatal double pedestrian car accident at 12 Mile and Orchard Lake roads — killing a mother and a young child — were waved down by a person who told police their vehicle had been hit by gunfire. The driver reported seeing a dark-colored vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, with tinted windows.

The driver was not hit by any bullets but suffered minor injuries from shattered glass.

Assistant Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said two businesses, DSW — 30867 Orchard Lake Road — and Bath & Body Works — 30991 Orchard Lake Road — also took damage from gunfire, with broken storefront windows.

An early morning shooting in the parking lot of Lush Hookah Lounge left one person hospitalized Nov. 10.

Approximately five other closed businesses nearby were damaged by gunfire.

An early investigation of the incident indicates that the shooting occurred after a dispute between a group of people escalated. Police believe this was not a random incident.

Rodriguez does not believe the two shooting incidents last year are connected, and he said the public should not be concerned by them.

Most violent crimes in Farmington Hills occur between people who know each other, Rodriguez said, which strikes less cause for concern than if they were random acts of violence.

 

Measles outbreak sweeps Oakland County
After wreaking havoc on the metro Detroit area in the spring, the Michigan measles outbreak ended in June, officials from the Oakland County Health Division announced.

Officials announced an end to the outbreak in a press release June 5. It was the largest local measles outbreak since 1991.

It all started in March, when an ill traveler from New York visited the Oakland County area, and out of the 44 confirmed measles cases, 40 of them occurred in Oakland County. Those affected by the virus ranged in age from 8 months to 63 years old, officials said.

Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford said in the release that over 3,300 measles vaccines were administered during the outbreak, and 17 special vaccine clinics were held throughout the area.

The vaccines were administered by the Oakland County Health Division, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Young Israel of Oak Park, Hatzalah of Michigan, local health care providers and local religious communities.

According to health officials, measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that is spread not only by direct person-to-person contact, but can also be spread through the air by a contagious person sneezing or coughing.

The measles virus can live for up to two hours in the air after an infected person has coughed or sneezed, officials said.

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