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 Attendees and participants take over the Fraser High School football field June 15 as part of the biggest crowd in the Run Drugs Out of Town event’s 11-year history.

Attendees and participants take over the Fraser High School football field June 15 as part of the biggest crowd in the Run Drugs Out of Town event’s 11-year history.

File photo by Erin Sanchez


Looking back on 2019 in Fraser, Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 27, 2019

 James Hamele, of Macomb Township, dances with his daughter, Ava, 5, during Clinton Township’s annual Daddy Daughter Dance Feb. 24 at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township.

James Hamele, of Macomb Township, dances with his daughter, Ava, 5, during Clinton Township’s annual Daddy Daughter Dance Feb. 24 at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 Laura Matte and Hailey Bethards, 12, both of Clinton Township, wave from inside a 1962 Chevrolet Impala Aug. 4 during the annual Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise.

Laura Matte and Hailey Bethards, 12, both of Clinton Township, wave from inside a 1962 Chevrolet Impala Aug. 4 during the annual Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Kindergarteners Emma Kosanke, Mikayla Jackson, and Alex Heumann, walk down the new and improved Erie Elementary kindergarten hallway April 11.

Kindergarteners Emma Kosanke, Mikayla Jackson, and Alex Heumann, walk down the new and improved Erie Elementary kindergarten hallway April 11.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Frederic Chole, deputy consul general with the French Consulate, pins the French Legion of Honor Medal on World War II veteran Mike Aleo, of Clinton Township.

Frederic Chole, deputy consul general with the French Consulate, pins the French Legion of Honor Medal on World War II veteran Mike Aleo, of Clinton Township.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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FRASER/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Crime, community and commerce dominated the news this past year in Clinton Township and Fraser. Here’s a recap of what made headlines locally in 2019.

 

Murderers sentenced
A pair of Clinton Township murders resulted in two suspects facing justice for their crimes.

Robert Leo Marzejka, 26, was accused of killing his sister, Danielle, 18, and her boyfriend, Seren Bryan, 19, in August 2018. The barely week-long trial in November found Marzejka guilty of first-degree murder.

A stoic Marzejka sat still as witnesses took the stand, including police, Danielle’s best friend, his aunt and cousin, and a medical examiner.

In his closing statement, Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor William Cataldo said Marzejka planned the attacks and gave the suspects “no chance to survive.”

The jury needed less than 40 minutes Nov. 22 to find Marzejka guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 14 by Macomb County Circuit Court Judge James Biernat.

Jerry Motley, 27, was another killer who learned his fate Nov. 20 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Motley was arrested and accused of killing his boss, Thomas Badke, a co-owner of Reliable Fence, in January 2018. Reported work disputes led to the shooting death of Badke, whose family was in the courtroom as Judge Carl Marlinga handed down his sentence.

Marlinga said Motley’s decision “to get a turn and turn to violence” will require the convicted killer to live a “lonely, futile, meaningless existence.”

“I can’t imagine somebody so out of control, so lacking in compassion, so vicious, so bloodthirsty,” Marlinga said to Motley, who stood in front of him in shackles and a blue prison uniform.

Badke was called “the soul” of the family by his daughter-in-law. His sister, Dolores Badke Kaiser, said that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday.

“We’ll be together and thank God for the time we had with him, and be thankful Jerry Motley will never do this to another family, ever,” Kaiser said outside the courtroom.

 

People make strong communities
Local community officials and volunteers are continuously working to offer higher levels of quality of life.

In Fraser, a barrier-free park has evolved from a dream, to a blueprint, to real-life action. Groups such as the Fraser First Booster Club continue to bolster and represent community values, leading to other forms of volunteerism.

Other groups, like the Naughty Knitters in Fraser, used their art skills to decorate a fence near City Hall to acknowledge and bring awareness to endangered monarch butterflies.

In the bigger picture, it’s about revamping the city as a whole. One volunteer said it’s all about going with the changes and coming out a better community.

Clinton Township Senior Center members are helping the butterflies while continually building up the community garden — beds of which contain kale, Swiss chard, garlic, green beans, yellow beans, carrots, rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, beets, radishes, onions, lettuce and various herbs.

The self-sufficient garden began in 2014. This past May, the Township Board of Trustees approved funding for four new beds. The group has such dedicated public servants, they will come out in the pouring rain on a weekday morning because, as one longtime member stated, “When things have to be done, you do it.”

Other forms of volunteerism have included “Shop with a Hero,” which in its seventh year experienced its biggest turnout yet in order for Clinton Township firefighters to help deliver area children a brighter Christmas.

Fraser VFW Post 6691 members continue to be seemingly everywhere all the time, from veteran-based holiday celebrations to inside Fraser Public Schools classrooms. Clinton Township Kiwanis and Goodfellows members continue to hold fundraisers and raise thousands for the less fortunate, as well as public safety departments.

Locals, like Vietnam veteran and Clinton Township resident Pat Daniels, work tirelessly as an advocate for other veterans in Macomb County. In November, he was honored by the Macomb County Board of Commissioners as the first-ever Veteran of the Year — an award that from this point forward will be named after himself.

Daniels recently stated that “ideas are just ideas unless somebody buys into it.” He helped start Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for metro Detroit military groups and organizations through his work with the annual Ride for Freedom motorcycle ride.

“The things that I do for veterans, things I’ve been doing for 40 years, was never about the recognition,” Daniels said. “It was always about helping the veterans.”

 

Navigating an uncertain future
Now more than a decade removed since the recession ravaged municipal fund accounts and put residents in financial peril, local communities are being pragmatic about the next decade.

In Fraser, a new City Council aims to balance a budget that will sustain itself through the good and bad times. In November, the city welcomed a new council member, Amy Baranski, who replaced the outgoing Yvette Foster. Baranski received the most votes of any of the four council candidates. Mayor Mike Carnagie, who ran unopposed in the election, will continue to helm the seven-person panel.

Carnagie touted the city’s best audit in a decade, as well as a AA bond rating. After years of uncertainty, he feels the city is on the right footing and that council can make positive impacts in areas like infrastructure, maintain public safety levels and providing children with a strong environment.

“I see the morale higher. I see the young people real energetic,” Carnagie said in August. “They want to work with everybody. They want to work with paid-on-call firefighters.”

Baranski called the 2019 election a “referendum,” saying that the old way of doing business was no longer acceptable to city residents.

“A grassroots effort that started with truly being connected and engaged in the city helped voters decide who should be in council for the next four years. … I believe this election ensures that council will now be in a position to move the city forward without negativity or delay,” she said after learning of her election. “The combined expertise of the incoming council, along with the professionalism of each member, will ensure that the city not only survives, but prospers.”

In Clinton Township, officials are focusing on the present, while also looking toward the future.

In 2019, Nordstrom closed its doors at The Mall at Partridge Creek, after store officials cited long-term performance and future needs.

However, the mall continues to draw over 10.5 million visitors annually with its array of retail, dining and entertainment options. As commerce trends continue to fluctuate due to online retail and the like, an official said there is still a need for places like Partridge. New stores and dining options are scheduled to open soon.

After decades of residential and industrial growth, an aura of stagnation has occurred in terms of available locations and finding individuals and businesses willing to invest in the future in Clinton Township. Both residents and officials cite corridors such as Groesbeck Highway as needing new life.

Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem has stated on numerous occasions that many are still feeling the financial pinch of the recession. People are looking for points of pride, he added.

In late September, the township hired a firm to start the stages of a strategic plan to find out what officials, residents and other stakeholders care about and value as the future unfolds. It ties in with the township’s Master Plan, which takes an overarching view of what the township has and what it requires.

By December, surveys were available to stakeholders for direct input that would lead to a multi-faceted scope of future change and development. Township Deputy Supervisor Elizabeth Vogel said the plan spawned from Supervisor Bob Cannon’s State of Clinton Township Address in January 2019.

“We had just come off of our 200-year anniversary, our bicentennial, and were thinking, ‘We’ve come this far, but what does Clinton Township look like in the future?’” Vogel said in December.

Cannon said road infrastructure and vacant buildings remain the biggest complaints he hears from residents. He also said the township is ultimately judged by how it treats its youth and its seniors.

The strategic plan will move forward in the new year.

Just before Christmas, Clinton Township and its clerk, Kim Meltzer, were sued in relation to a March marijuana ballot initiative for community facilities. That is expected to be litigated in Macomb County Circuit Court, continuing a topic of discussion that has the attention of officials and residents.

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